05/01/2012 11:51AM

Atlantic City: Wolfendale seeks fourth win in Tony Gatto/Dream Big Stakes


Maryland-based trainer Howard Wolfendale has maintained a near-monopoly on the Tony Gatto/Dream Big Stakes, the closing-day feature at Atlantic City, for the past four years. Wolfendale won back-to-back runnings of the five-furlong turf sprint in 2008 and 2009 with Hesa Big Star, then nearly pulled off the same feat in 2010 and 2011 with Blue Sailor, whose bid for a repeat victory came up a neck shy in a photo finish last spring.

To no surprise, Wolfendale will send out a contender in Thursday’s renewel of the $60,000 Tony Gatto/Big Dream in the 6-year-old short sprint specialist Ju Jitsu Jax.

Third in this same race a year ago, 4 1/4 lengths behind stablemate Blue Sailor, Ju Jitsu Jax should be primed for a peak performance after a good prep in his season debut less than two weeks ago. Racing for the first time since September, Ju Jitsu Jax set a contested pace before grudgingly giving way to finish second by a neck in an optional $75,000 claimer at Pimlico on April 21.

Although he is just 1 for 6 lifetime on turf, Ju Jitsu Jax recorded that victory in the My Frenchman at Monmouth Park last summer as a 22-1 longshot.

Two other Maryland-based runners, Steady Warrior and Disco Dandy, may be the stiffest challengers for Ju Jitsu Jax.

Steady Warrior is 0 for 3 on grass, but two of those defeats were by narrow margins as the runner-up to the 10-time stakes winner Ben’s Cat. Steady Warrior held a narrow lead in deep stretch, but had to settle for second by a length in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint last October. It was 10 lengths back to the third-place finisher. More recently, Steady Warrior owned a 2 1/2-length lead at the stretch call of the five-furlong Mister Diz at Laurel Park, only to be overtaken by Ben’s Cat at the wire by a neck.

Disco Dandy, an 8-year-old gelding trained by Mary Eppler, has won four of his last five starts dating back to last May. His lone defeat during that span came when he dueled and faded badly while facing Steady Warrior and Ben’s Cat in the Maryland Million. In his prep for this spot, Disco Dandy wired nine opponents in a second-level optional $25,000 claimer at Pimlico.

Tuesday’s field also includes 7-year-old Florida shipper Little Nick, a six-time winner in turf sprints who last season missed by three-quarters of a length when attempting to stretch his speed in the Grade 3 Miami Mile.