09/25/2013 11:38AM

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile: Pletcher may go three deep

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Tom Keyser
Graydar will be making his first start in nearly six months when he runs in Saturday's Kelso.

Todd Pletcher could potentially stage a three-ply assault on the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with Graydar, Shanghai Bobby, and Verrazano.

Graydar rose meteorically to prominence last winter when he wired the Grade 1 Donn Handicap in his stakes debut and fourth start overall, and followed with a pace-pressing score in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap.

Shortly after the New Orleans, however, Graydar had a chip taken out of an ankle, so he will be coming into Saturday’s Grade 2 Kelso Invitational at Belmont Park two days shy of a six-month layoff. In preparation for his return, Graydar has been working in company with stablemate Cross Traffic, who runs in Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, capped by five furlongs in 1:00.52 on the training track on Sept. 21.

“It’s the third consecutive breeze they’ve had together,” said Pletcher. “It served them both well. In company, they stay more focused without overdoing it. We wanted to make sure we got a good solid work into both of them. One of them is coming off a significant layoff and the other hasn’t run since the Whitney, and I think we got what we were looking for.”

Last year’s juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby, who sustained a pelvic stress fracture after running fifth in the Florida Derby, returned to win a close decision over four rivals in last Friday’s Aljamin overnight stakes at Belmont. Ridden for the first time by John Velazquez, Shanghai Bobby stalked in second position from the outset, and was up to prevail by a neck after 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.79, earning a Beyer Figure of 92.

“It was my first time riding him, but I had watched his previous races, and what he does is get to the lead and wait,” said Velazquez. “I didn’t want to make a premature move and get to the lead too quickly. Then, I waited too long and it took him a long time to get going. Finally, when he got the lead, he started waiting again. His gallop-out was really good. He’s a tough horse to read.”

Pletcher said that Breeders’ Cup options for Shanghai Bobby include the Dirt Mile and the Sprint.

Last Saturday, Verrazano, who is training up to the Dirt Mile, breezed a half-mile in 49 seconds in company with King’s Bishop-winning stablemate Capo Bastone. Capo Bastone is targeting the Turf Sprint.

In addition to the Kelso, Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile Awesome Again at Santa Anita has the potential to produce some serious contenders who have run well in shorter races, notably Liaison and Paynter. Their trainer, Bob Baffert, already has the horse to beat in the Classic in Game On Dude.

Liaison captured the Santana Mile at Santa Anita in his first start this year. Paynter returned from death’s door to win a seven-furlong allowance with a 114 Beyer in June.