07/25/2008 11:00PM

Desert Key's last race stands out


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It was overshadowed by events later in the day, but few horses were more impressive on the Belmont Stakes card than Desert Key, who won a first-level allowance race by five lengths at Belmont Park on June 7.

Monday, Desert Key will try to replicate that performance when he takes on six rivals in the Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga. The Amsterdam, at 6 1/2 furlongs, is the prep for the Grade 1 King's Bishop here on Aug. 23. The multiple graded stakes winner J Be K is skipping this race to await the King's Bishop.

Desert Key looked to be graded stakes material when he went gate to wire under Edgar Prado, running six furlongs in 1:08.80 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 104. The horse he beat that day, Accredit, came back to win an allowance opening day.

"The track was fast; he was drifting out real bad and I couldn't really figure out why he did that," said Jimmy Jerkens, who downplayed Desert Key's performance.

Jerkens said he had hoped to run Desert Key in an overnight stakes before this, but it didn't fill. Desert Key has continued to train strongly, firing four bullet works since his last race, including a three-furlong blowout in 33.81 seconds Friday morning at Saratoga.

Desert Key will break from post 3 under Prado.

Eaton's Gift and Devereux finished one-two in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 17. Eaton's Gift has won his last three starts on dirt, including the Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream in February. While he won the Swale on the lead, he stalked the pace in the Matt Winn. He's well-drawn in post 7 to stalk again.

"He showed a different dimension last time, which we were glad to see,'' trainer Dale Romans said.

Devereux went to Charles Town, where he won the $100,000 Red Legend Stakes by seven lengths on June 1.

"He'd have to run 1 1/2 or two lengths better than he did in the Matt Winn,'' trainer Steve Asmussen said. "I've a feeling he's a little better horse.''

Kodiak Kowboy won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special here as a 2-year-old when trained by Asmussen. Now he is making his first start for trainer Larry Jones.

Excess Capital was scratched out of a maiden race here on Saturday to run in this spot. Trainer Mark Hennig said the horse has run speed figures that make him competitive here. Silver Edition has run second to J Be K in his last two starts and could be the biggest beneficiary of a speed duel.