07/16/2007 11:00PM

Circular Quay to make turf debut


A full and competitive field befitting a $1 million purse has been entered for Saturday's Virginia Derby, the Grade 2 turf race that anchors the richest program of the Colonial Downs meet.

Many of the top 3-year-old turf runners in North America are among the field of 10 entered in the Virginia Derby, including the top finishers in several key races of recent weeks.

Among the top contenders are Summer Doldrums and Strike a Deal, the one-two finishers in the June 16 Colonial Turf Cup; Inca King and Duveen, the one-two finishers in the June 16 Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs; Red Giant and Top Cross, respective winners of the Restoration and Lamplighter at the Monmouth Park meet; and Blazing Dynamo, a sharp winner of back-to-back Belmont Park turf races.

Surely the most intriguing entry in the 1 1/4-mile Virginia Derby is Circular Quay, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt who was sixth in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness. Circular Quay will be ridden by Garrett Gomez when he makes his turf debut Saturday.

From the hedge, this is the Virginia Derby field: Blazing Dynamo, Strike a Deal, Red Giant, Circular Quay, Inca King, Soldier's Dancer, Duveen, Love Dubai, Summer Doldrums, and Top Cross.

The Virginia Derby is carded as the ninth of 10 races on a Saturday card that also includes the $200,000 Virginia Oaks (race 8) and the $60,000 Kitten's Joy (race 7).

Thirteen 3-year-old fillies were entered in the Virginia Oaks, a 1o1/8-mile turf race. Bit of Whimsy, with Edgar Prado riding for trainer Barclay Tagg, looks like one of the logical favorites, along with a pair of Grade 1 winners: Christmas Kid, winner of the Ashland Stakes, and Dreaming of Anna, the 2-year-old filly champion of 2006.

Bit of Whimsy, who dead-heated for win with Rutherienne in her last start, the Grade 3 Sands Point at Belmont, drew post 5, while Christmas Kid was assigned post 8 and Dreaming of Anna got post 9. Other logical contenders include Silence Dogood, New Edition, and Ciao.

The Kitten's Joy, named for the 2004 Eclipse turf champion, drew a field of 11 older turf runners, with Karelian, entered off back-to-back turf triumphs at Churchill Downs, likely to rank among the favorites for Prado and trainer Rusty Arnold.