04/03/2007 11:00PM

Circular Quay going straight to Derby

Alexander Barkoff
Circular Quay, the gifted Michael Tabor homebred, will face Nobiz Like Shobiz in Saturday's Wood Memorial.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will call an audible when entries are taken Wednesday morning at Aqueduct in New York for the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial on Saturday, he said Tuesday night. Louisiana Derby winner Circular Quay, who had been expected to run in the Wood, instead will bypass that race and train up to the May 5 Kentucky Derby, and his place will be taken by Tampa Bay Derby runner-up Any Given Saturday, who had been scheduled to run April 14 in the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

John Velazquez, who was to ride Circular Quay, will be on Any Given Saturday. Pletcher said he also would enter Gotham Stakes winner Cowtown Cat in the Wood, but only as a back-up plan. Pletcher intends to run Cowtown Cat on Saturday in the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne. Entries for the Illinois Derby are not taken until Thursday.

Pletcher said his “gut reaction” since the Louisiana Derby was that Circular Quay “needed a little more time.” By missing the Wood, though, Circular Quay will come into the Derby off an eight-week layoff. Barbaro won the Derby last year off a five-week layoff.

“I know I’m going against what’s stated that you can and can’t do,” Pletcher said, “but giving horses more time generally has worked best for my horses. Watching him train, I thought it would be best to train him up to the Derby, rather than train him up to a big race like the Wood and come back another four weeks later for the Derby.”

Pletcher said that once the decision was made to skip the Wood with Circular Quay, it became more tempting to put Any Given Saturday in that spot.

“It looks like it might be easier of the two,” he said, comparing the depth of the fields of the Wood and Blue Grass. “And now he’ll have four weeks from his final prep to the Derby. The extra week should be beneficial.”

Pletcher said there is now a chance Deadly Dealer, who is scheduled to run in the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 14, will be moved to the Blue Grass. But Pletcher said he would not make that decision until watching the way the main track plays at Keeneland opening weekend, beginning Friday.