03/03/2011 4:36PM

Drosselmeyer preps for bigger goals in Tampa's Challenger


OLDSMAR, Fla. – Drosselmeyer, winner of the 2010 Belmont Stakes, will make his long awaited 4-year-old debut here at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday as the overwhelming favorite of a field of 11 older handicap runners in the $60,000 Challenger Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

Luis Garcia will handle Drosselmeyer at 122 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Challenger.

Drosselmeyer, who originally had been targeted to race in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26, came down with a fever last month which caused him to miss six days of training. That setback prompted him to miss a scheduled start in New Orleans in the MIneshaft, which was intended to serve as a prep for the Dubai race.

With the World Cup out of the picture, trainer Bill Mott said he turned to the Challenger as the first step back for Drosselmeyer.

“It’s time for him to get in the game, “ Mott said Thursday morning, “He’s been away eight months and we need to get him started back. Tampa’s not too far away from a shipping standpoint, horses seem to get a lot out of having a race over that track, and this way we can get a race under his belt and get him ready to run down the road, perhaps at the Fair Grounds or Oaklawn Park “

Drosselmeyer comes into the Challenger off a solid series of workouts at Payson Park, where he is stabled with a number of Mott runners and his trainer says the 4-year-old Drosselmeyer has filled out and matured over the winter.

“He’s done well, he’s grown up a bit, filled out a bit, and now it’s time for him to get back to racing,” Mott said.

While Drosselmeyer will no doubt be considered by many as the horse to beat in the Challenger, there are several others in the field that shouldn’t be taken lightly, most notably Colizeo from the Todd Pletcher barn.

Colizeo will also be making his 2011 debut Saturday and has the natural speed to be a prime threat. A four-time winner from nine outings last season, including a win in the Grade 3 Northern Dancer at Churchill, Colizeo will be making his first start since finishing third in the Grade 3 Ack Ack at Churchill last fall.

Schoolyard Dreams, second here as a 3-year-old to Odysseus in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby, comes into the Challenger off a winning effort locally and two of his three lifetime wins have come at Tampa Bay.