12/26/2008 1:00AM

Winter meet heats up with strong Gravesend


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - With multiple graded stakes winners Fabulous Strike, Lucky Island, and Songster entered in the same race and the temperature possibly reaching 50 degrees, one would think the Grade 1 Vosburgh is being run this Saturday.

But it is indeed December, and that trio of horses will knock heads over Aqueduct's inner track in the $100,000 Gravesend Handicap, a race that will lose its Grade 3 status next year.

"For this time of year, you would certainly think it would be a little weaker," said Tom Albertrani, trainer of Songster, who won the Hirsch Jacobs and Woody Stephens as a 3-year-old and the Bold Ruler last year at 4.

Songster, who had fertility problems as a stallion prospect, is making his second start since returning to training. He finished third to Grand Champion in an optional claiming race in his Nov. 6 return in the mud.

"Considering the fact it was muddy - we always felt he never did handle an off track but we had to get a start in him - he ran well and he's been training well ever since that race," Albertrani said.

Fabulous Strike won the Grade 1 Vosburgh in 2007 but suffered an illness and then a foot problem that limited him to just four starts in 2008. He was beaten a head in this year's Vosburgh before finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface. He bounced back with a victory in the Fall Highweight Handicap in which he ran six furlongs in 1:09.02 carrying 136 pounds, earning a 113 Beyer Speed Figure.

"Obviously, he's rounding his way back into form," said trainer Todd Beattie, who had to ship Fabulous Strike to Laurel Park for his final workout due to poor conditions at Penn National. "I was really happy with what I saw there. The biggest part is it didn't seem that stressful on him, either. He handled that very easily."

Fabulous Strike drew post 2 and will carry 126 pounds under Ramon Dominguez. If Night Stand scratches to run in Saturday's Christmas Stakes at Mountaineer, Fabulous Strike will break from the rail.

Lucky Island, winner of the Tom Fool and Bold Ruler handicaps earlier this year, is making his first start since suffering a wall separation in a hind hoof during the Vosburgh. His connections feel he is training as well as he did in the summer, and his off-the-pace tactics could serve him well here.

Good Card, Grand Champion, True Quality, and Cavallo Pazzo complete the field.