01/07/2010 12:00AM

Big Truck facing a crowd

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OLDSMAR, Fla. - Big Truck, winner of the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby in 2008, will make his first start in more than 13 months Saturday in the $65,000 Pelican Stakes - if his new trainer, Derek Ryan, decides to run him.

Big Truck, who finished 11th in the 2008 Blue Grass Stakes and 18th behind Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby following his win at Tampa, went to the sidelines with a tendon injury late in 2008. He was moved from trainer Barclay Tagg to Ryan's barn this fall and has been training smartly for his return.

Ryan, however, has reservations about running the late-closing Big Truck in a race where he may get knocked around in traffic, and wasn't happy when he found out that 10 horses had been entered in the six-furlong Pelican.

"I had been led to believe the race was going to come up light and was more than a little surprised when the overnight came out and there were 10 entered," said Ryan, who also trains Musket Man, last year's Tampa Bay Derby winner. "He's a big, long-striding horse, and it's no secret six furlongs is not his best distance. When you ask a horse like that to weed his way through the field, a lot of times there are traffic problems, he gets stopped or gets knocked around, then we've got a problem. I'm going to have to think about it, but I guess I'm leaning toward running."

Big Truck, 5, has several solid works leading up to his return, including a bullet five-furlong drill on Dec. 24. Ryan is pleased with his progress.

"We worked him with Musket Man that day, and they both worked like good horses are supposed to work," Ryan said. "He's not 100 percent fit yet, and Saturday's race is just the first step back toward what we hope will be bigger and better things as time goes by. I think we're going to have some fun with him as the year progresses."

One of Big Truck's better efforts before the injury was in the Floral Park Stakes on the turf at Belmont, where he fell a head short of Wishful Tomcat. Ryan said he may try Big Truck on turf again.

"He's got a solid foot," Ryan said, "and he just seems like the type that can handle most any kind of footing, so turf could certainly be in his future. Right now we just want to get a good race into him and bring him home sound. If he's good enough to win it, that's all well and good, too."

The Pelican came up surprisingly tough, as Rockerfeller, who last saw action when he ran fourth in the Grade 1 Vosburgh in September 2008, comes off a long layoff for trainer Kenneth Hoffman. Rockerfeller, a winner of 4 of 20 starts, deserves a long look as does Conchacer, who led into the final furlong of the Grade 3 Perryville Stakes at Keeneland in his final start of 2009. Conchacer, who has won 2 of his 3 starts over the Tampa strip, also won the Forward Pass Stakes at Arlington last summer.

The Jamie Ness-trained pairing of War Fighter, who ran second in the Grade 2 Ohio Derby last fall, and Sneaking Uponyou, who has won three races for the Ness barn since being claimed, also can't be ignored.