09/26/2007 11:00PM

Dagger's opposition doesn't match $200K purse

EmailEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Some of the fillies Dagger faced in the Matron Stakes are heading straight to the Breeders' Cup.

Dagger might eventually join them at Monmouth Park for the season-ending championships in late October. Before then, she has a mission at hand: the National Association of Two-Year-Old Consignors Futurity on Saturday night at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

The NATC is split into a pair of $200,000 races with male and female divisions. The stakes are open to juveniles who were cataloged in 2007 and whose owners have paid the 2007 advertising fund fees.

The restricted race is a golden opportunity for a filly like Dagger to aim for a big pot against less demanding company following a third-place finish behind the unbeaten Proud Spell in the Grade 2 Matron at Belmont Park on Sept. 15.

"This race is a little close, but we're going to come back," trainer Jim Ryerson said. "She came out of the last race good."

This will be the fourth start for Dagger who debuted on July 15 at Monmouth, finishing second. She won there next time out on Aug. 18, setting the stage for her solid effort in the Matron at 32-1.

"She's done very well," Ryerson said. "I thought she ran a great race at Belmont. Everything has gone well so far. Hopefully, it can continue."

As to whether it continues to the Breeders' Cup, Ryerson would only say that "no final decision has been made on that."

Stewart Elliott will be aboard for the fourth straight time.

While Dagger was a $240,000 purchase this year, Freakstein commanded the highest price in the field at auction: $700,000 at the Barretts sale in March.

She was an easy winner at Saratoga in her only start. She is trained by Bill Mott.

Preachin Man tops colt division

In the NATC male division, the well-traveled Preachin Man holds an experience edge on nine rivals.

This will be the sixth race at six different racetracks for Preachin Man, a son of Songandaprayer trained by Ronny Werner.

"He's a good traveler," Werner said of the colt, who has already run at Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Louisiana Downs, Mountaineer Park, and Monmouth. "Nothing much bothers him."

Most recently, Preachin Man battled for the lead in Monmouth's Grade 3 Sapling Stakes and finished second, bringing his record to 2-2-0 for the 5 starts.

Rather than van Preachin Man back to Kentucky after the Sapling, Werner decided to leave the colt at Monmouth. That was an excellent decision as the colt ran a fever several days after the race.

"He went through a few things but he's doing well now," Werner said. "I'm glad I left him there. I was really glad after he spiked the temperature. He probably would've gotten so sick after a trailer ride that he wouldn't have made this race."

Werner believes that the experience factor will be an advantage. Preachin Man is starting to learn that he doesn't need the lead as soon as the gate springs open.

"Early on, he seemed to try a little harder if he was up there battling with you," Werner said. "He's had enough experience at this point that he doesn't have to be on the lead. There is enough speed in this race that, hopefully, we can sit a little off this time."

Cornelio Velasquez will ride.

Cobra Strike, a flashy winner in his debut Aug. 25 at Monmouth for trainer Alan Seewald, drew the rail with Jose Velez Jr. aboard.

Sales Tax heads Holly Stakes

The $55,000 Holly Stakes for fillies on the turf is the third 2-year-old stakes on the card.

The race drew six for the one mile and 70-yard contest, including Sales Tax, winner of Monmouth's Junior Champion Stakes.

The Holly faced tough scheduling competition from a nearly identical race Sunday at Belmont: the $75,000 Miss Grillo at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.