01/10/2007 12:00AM

Victory Pool now the one to beat

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - When trainer Ben Perkins Jr. brought Victory Pool to New York last winter she had the misfortune of running into the likes of multiple stakes winners Pool Land and No Sleep.

She finished second to both of those fillies.

Last month, Victory Pool returned to New York and found the company a bit softer as she rallied from off the pace to score a 1 1/2-length victory in the Gold Beauty, an overnight stakes restricted to non-stakes winners.

The competition figures to be similar on Saturday when Victory Pool runs in the $65,000 Affectionately Handicap over Aqueduct's inner track.

Having displayed some mediocre form at Monmouth Park in the summer and showing just one race in five months prior to the Gold Beauty, Victory Pool was let go at nearly 8-1 odds in that race.

Perkins explained that Victory Pool may not have cared for Monmouth in part because the speed-favoring nature of the surface forced him to instruct the riders to keep her closer to the pace. Following a September allowance race, Victory Pool couldn't leave Monmouth because of restrictions placed on that track due to some suspected cases of equine herpesvirus.

"We tried to have her lay a little closer because of the speed at Monmouth, and she just didn't have the same kind of kick that she would have," Perkins said. "Then basically we got stuck at Monmouth. I didn't want to run her at the Meadowlands, and there was nothing for her there anyway. I had her in at Laurel and we couldn't go. It ended up we got her ready for here."

Victory Pool got a nice trip in the Gold Beauty under Eibar Coa, rallying from six lengths off the pace to score.

"I thought she had a shot going in, but with the [outside] post I was a little concerned," Perkins said. "Eibar did a really good job. He got her over, then she kind of settled back and she finished well."

Victory Pool blew out three furlongs in 36.90 seconds Wednesday over the Belmont Park training track.

Victory Pool will be the starting highweight at 118 pounds in the Affectionately, run at 1 1/16 miles. Others pointing to the race are Pleasant Chimes, Dina, Homerette, and Bobcat Greeley.

Sagamoon heads Busanda prospects

Also on the work tab Wednesday morning was Sagamoon, a New York-bred 3-year-old filly who is scheduled to take on open company in Sunday's $65,000 Busanda Stakes at a mile and 70 yards.

Sagamoon, trained by Tom Albertrani, worked an easy half-mile in 50.29 seconds over the training track.

"That's what she always does, she puts a lot into her gallops," said Andy Rehm, assistant to Albertrani.

Sagamoon is 2 for 2 since going on Lasix, but Rehm believes stretching the filly out in distance has been a bigger factor in Sagamoon's improvement.

Others expected for the Busanda are Cabbage Patch Gal, My Kitty, Royal Highland, That Girl Is Mine, and Wow Me Free.

Winkfield highlights holiday card

Aqueduct will be open on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when the featured event will be the $65,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes for 3-year-olds at six furlongs.

B.B. Mancini, an Indiana-bred who has won three consecutive races, is expected to ship in from Kentucky for trainer Michael Maker. Maker also has Holy Wonder nominated. Bill Place, a 6 3/4-length allowance winner at Philadelphia Park on Dec. 17, and Wollaston Bay, who has won his last two, are also listed as likely starters.

Finlandia, Rahys' Appeal to get break

Trainer Tom Bush's two New York-breds returned from Southern California on Tuesday and will now most likely be given some time off.

Rahys' Appeal finished second to Citronnade in Sunday's Grade 2 San Gorgonio Handicap on the turf at Santa Anita, while Finlandia didn't get a chance to run out there as she was scratched from the Dahlia Handicap on Dec. 18 after spiking a temperature two days earlier.

Both will remain in training this year, with Finlandia likely to be kept on the turf and Rahys' Appeal likely headed back to the dirt. Prior to the San Gorgonio, Rahys' Appeal finished first in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct, but was disqualified to second by the stewards for a whip infraction.

"If there would have been a graded race on the dirt, I probably would have run her back on the dirt," Bush said. "But in California, especially at Santa Anita, the turf is more like a carpet. I knew she would appreciate the firm going. That's why I took a chance."

Bush said that had the purse of Saturday's Affectionately Handicap been higher than $65,000, he most likely would have kept Rahys' Appeal back in New York.

Meanwhile, Bush said Finlandia quickly recovered from her illness and was galloping regularly for trainer Richard Mandella, but was not ready to run in the San Gorgonio.

Bush said both horses would most likely return in April and possibly be pointed to races at Keeneland.

Bush said he is undecided about what to do next with A True Pussycat, a filly who won the $67,900 Get Lucky Stakes here on Jan. 4. That was her first start for Bush, who was given the horse after owner Peter Bradley purchased her privately.

Bush said he would consider the $65,000 Rare Treat Handicap here on Feb. 24 unless he could find something richer.

'Sammy' should get pace setup

Smash 'Em Sammy figures to get the right pace scenario to continue his recent success on the inner track when he meets four rivals in Friday's $65,000 Fabersham Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds at six furlongs.

After winning a $40,000 claiming race on Dec. 8, Smash 'Em Sammy finished second to Landofopportunity in a first-level allowance race for statebreds on Jan. 4. Though Landofopportunity is back in this field, he figures to have to do battle with Lights of Broadway from the outset. Lights of Broadway, a son of Catienus, has won three in a row for trainer Charlton Baker, including the Finger Lakes Juvenile two months ago.

Gonzo Bonzo Beans was scratched out of an open claiming race on Wednesday and was supplemented to the Fabersham for $650. He finished third behind Smash 'Em Sammy in the Dec. 8 claiming race.

Good Prospect cuts back to a sprint after winning a first-level allowance race going a mile and 70 yards.

* Attila's Storm, preparing for a start in the $65,000 Paumonok Handicap here on Jan. 27, worked four furlongs in 48.67 seconds Wednesday over the Belmont Park training track.