02/08/2013 2:25PM

Aqueduct: West Hills Giant to start the year sprinting on dirt

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Tom Keyser
West Hills Giant won his maiden race on the turf at Saratoga.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Though his future may ultimately be as a distance horse on turf, West Hills Giant recorded the biggest victory of his 2-year-old season sprinting on the dirt.

Sunday, when West Hills Giant makes his 3-year-old debut, it will come in a dirt sprint in the $75,000 Java Gold Stakes at Aqueduct. Though cross-entered in Saturday’s one-mile Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park, West Hills Giant will run in the Java Gold, trainer John Terranova said Friday. With only five entrants, the Java Gold is carded as race 3 on the nine-race program.

West Hills Giant, a son of the hot New York-based stallion Frost Giant, won a maiden turf race going 1 1/16 miles last Sept. 3 at Saratoga. Since he had trained well on the dirt, West Hills Giant was entered in the $250,000 New York Breeders’ Futurity going six furlongs at Finger Lakes last Sept. 29. Despite stumbling at the start, West Hills Giant circled four wide around the turn and came home a 1 1/4-length winner.

“He worked fine on the dirt, it looked like he might be versatile. We gave it a shot cutting back to three-quarters and it didn’t seem to be a problem,” Terranova said.

West Hills Giant came back just nine days later in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes, run over a boggy Belmont turf course, and finished last.

“He didn’t like it at all, he couldn’t get a hold of it,” Terranova said of the soft ground. “We trained on him for a few weeks after that and then gave him a month off. He’s had a couple of really nice breezes coming back. He should be pretty sharp. Hopefully, it sets up well and he puts in a good effort.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride West Hills Giant, who breaks from post 3.

Winning Cause runs back 20 days after finishing second to Clawback in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes here. That was his first start on dirt. Breaking from the rail in the Winkfield, Winning Cause stumbled so badly that his nose touched the dirt. He rallied from last to get second.

“He was eliminated at the start, went down to his nose, ran on late, which was encouraging,” said Michael McCarthy, assistant trainer to Todd Pletcher.

Rubsyandpearls, who set the pace in the Winkfield before fading to third, figures to be on the lead again from the rail under David Cohen. He is likely to face pressure from Parx shipper Patrick S and/or The Truth and K G. The Truth and K G is coming off two open-length wins since being claimed by owner Jim Riccio and turned over to trainer Rudy Rodriguez.