01/20/2011 4:55PM

Calibrachoa faces some stiff challenges in Toboggan

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The stakes races run here this winter have been a bit on the boring side. Short fields have been dominated by heavy favorites or second choices. On paper, at least, Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Toboggan Stakes scheduled for six furlongs over Aqueduct’s inner track has some appeal.

While Calibrachoa is likely to be sent off a solid favorite, he will have several challengers, including the uncoupled, Rudy Rodriguez-trained entry of Endless Circle and Temecula Creek. Add the intriguing Independence War, and you have the makings of a pretty solid race.

Calibrachoa will be a deserving favorite based on his strong off-the-pace victory in the Gravesend Stakes on Dec. 18, his first start since being claimed by owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher for $40,000. Calibrachoa has continued to impress his connections in the morning.

“I was amazed at what a sound, professional horse we ended up with,” said Jonathan Thomas, Pletcher’s assistant trainer. “He’s trained like a very good horse. I don’t know if he’s going to bounce off his last race or not, but he worked exceptionally well” Sunday.

Calibrachoa is coupled with Driven by Success, who was entered to run in a two-turn New York-bred stakes scheduled for Friday, a card that was threatened by a winter storm.

Temecula Creek or Endless Circle are more than capable of winning. Temecula Creek has won his last two starts and is 9 for 15 at six furlongs. His two most recent losses at six furlongs came in Grade 1 stakes.

“He’s training very good, he never has had any issues,” Rodriguez said. “In those Grade 1 races, he didn’t get embarrassed. I nominated him for the Sunshine Millions, but that looked pretty tough. This is not going to be easy for him, but at least he’ll run from home.”

Endless Circle has won six of his last nine races, including the Grade 3 Fall Highweight. He came back 23 days later and finished third in the Gravesend, and Rodriguez deduced he may have run the horse back too soon off a peak effort.

“At Saratoga, he took it pretty good,” Rodriguez said, referring to the John Morrissey Stakes that Endless Circle won just 11 days after running second in a third-level allowance race. “The other day, he was also trapped inside.”

Endless Circle breaks from post 2 under David Cohen, who despite winning the Gravesend on Calibrachoa has been replaced by Ramon Dominguez.

Independence War is a two-time winner over the inner track who makes his first start off the claim for Patricia Farro.