01/23/2009 12:00AM

True Quality looms big


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It took a horse the caliber of the Grade 1 winner Fabulous Strike to deny True Quality the first stakes win of his career in last month's Gravesend Handicap.

Without a horse of that stature entered in Saturday's $65,000 Paumonok Stakes, True Quality looms the horse to beat in the six-furlong race over Aqueduct's inner track. A field of six was entered, including stakes winners Ravalo and Grand Champion.

True Quality, plagued by foot and ankle issues midway through his 3-year-old season last year, returned from a six-month layoff to win a second-level allowance race by 8 3/4 lengths Dec. 7. Coming back in three weeks in the Gravesend, he outran the speedy Fabulous Strike for the lead and was two lengths clear at the eighth pole only to be run down by that rival while finishing 3 1/2 lengths clear of the field.

"I thought he ran lights out that day, I thought he ran lights out the time before," trainer John Campo Jr. said. "There's no Fabulous Strike in there this time."

Though there are other speed types entered in this field, Campo believes he has the horse with the best early speed.

"If [Fabulous Strike] couldn't outrun me, what makes me think any of the other horses in there can outrun me?" Campo said.

C.C. Lopez rides True Quality from post 3.

Ravalo, who ships in from Maryland, has good early speed, but rallied from off the pace to win the Christmas Stakes at Mountaineer on Dec. 27. It was his 10th win from 21 lifetime starts. He breaks from the rail under Mike Luzzi.

"As long as I'm not fifth down the backside," said Donald Barr, who trains Ravalo in Maryland but transfers the horse to Cleveland Johnson when he runs in New York. "If I'm laying second I'm in good shape, if I'm laying third I'm in good shape. I just don't want to get shut off into that first turn. That's what you pay the rider for you, and Mike rides him well."

Grand Champion finished third behind Ravalo in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap last October. Grand Champion will run for trainer Mike Hushion for the first time.

Place Your Bet ships up from Maryland for Scott Lake after upsetting 2-5 Eternal Star in an optional claiming race. Accredit has won his last two starts, but must prove he can win on dry footing. Serious Fever steps up off a second-level allowance win over the inner on Dec. 31.