10/22/2009 12:00AM

Decision on favorite is key to Eillo


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - A four-race winning streak that includes a pair of stakes and a string of gaudy Beyer Speed Figures would make Fleet Valid the overwhelming choice against five rivals Friday night in the $65,000 Eillo Stakes at the Meadowlands. But he may not run.

Trainer Scott Volk said he is leaning toward forgoing the six-furlong Eillo to take an ambitious swing Saturday in the Grade 1, $300,000 DeFrancis Memorial at Laurel.

That would open up the Eillo for Who's the Cowboy and Lucky James, a pair of New Jersey-bred stakes winners; Secretintelligence, closing in $200,000 in 2009 earnings; Easy Gallop, an up-and-coming 3-year-old making his stakes debut; and Mister Triester.

The nomination list for the DeFrancis included most of the leading sprinters in the Northeast. Volk took a flyer by nominating Fleet Valid, a 6-year-old gelding unbeaten in the four races at Monmouth Park since being claimed for $14,000 at Aqueduct in April. Since joining Volk's barn, Fleet Valid has posted Beyers ranging from 98 to 105.

Some notable defections from the DeFrancis will likely put Fleet Valid on the van to Laurel.

"I had no intention of going to Maryland if Fabulous Strike or Kodiak Kowboy were coming," Volk said. "I wanted no part of either one of those horses."

Neither one was in the entry box when the DeFrancis field was drawn Wednesday.

"I still have my bet hedged with the Eillo, but I am 90 percent going to the DeFrancis," Volk said.

If Fleet Valid scratches, the Eillo becomes a wide-open affair that could work out nicely for Easy Gallop.

With Fleet Valid in the field, Easy Gallop is only "50-50" to run, according the trainer John Forbes. The race looks more appealing if the favorite heads south.

Forbes had planned to stretch out Easy Gallop following consecutive allowance sprint wins that improved his record to 3 for 5. That was before the Ellio turned up with only six entrants.

"The original plan was to put him in a three-other-than, and then put him away from the winter," Forbes said. "It doesn't hurt to get some stakes black type, and we think he's a pretty talented horse. We went in anticipating a scratch or two.

"However, if we sprint him here, it doesn't answer the question of whether he will stretch out against solid horses."

Lucky James is also bidding for a third straight win, following a victory in the New Jersey Breeders' Handicap in late August at Monmouth.