03/10/2008 11:00PM

Few in this week's Derby preps would like 10 furlongs

Email

NEW YORK - The Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay, and the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita are the three Kentucky Derby preps this Saturday.

Last year's undefeated juvenile champion, War Pass, who couldn't have looked more imposing winning an allowance in his 3-year-old debut, is an overwhelming choice in the Tampa Bay Derby in what will be a field of just three or four. The undefeated Denis of Cork would have been a strong favorite in the Rebel, but his defection opens the door for the rest of the field, and the San Felipe also appears up for grabs.

The remaining probable starters for the Rebel include Z Fortune, Anak Nakal, Sierra Sunset, Face the Cat, Sacred Journey, He's Eze, Isabull, and Stone Bird. Golden Yank and Sebastian County are possibles.

The entire Rebel field is bred to win at 1 1/16 miles, but only Stone Bird is bred to be effective at 1 1/4 miles. Stone Bird is by Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone and out of a half-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone and Kentucky Oaks and Acorn Stakes winner Bird Town.

Sierra Sunset, the Southwest Stakes runner-up, descends from Mrs. Henry D. Paxson's influential broodmare Kay Ho, as do Denis of Cork and the Nick Zito-trained Da' Tara. Kay Ho is the second dam of Sierra Sunset, the fourth dam of Denis of Cork, and the third dam of Da' Tara. While Denis of Cork should handle 1 1/4 miles (due to the Harlan's Holiday-Unbridled cross), the same cannot be said of Sierra Sunset, who is by speed influence Bertrando. Da' Tara, by two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, has a slightly better chance of getting the Derby distance, and gets more stamina from his damsire, Pirate's Bounty (by Hoist the Flag).

The San Felipe will be the first two-turn start for the fleet Bob Black Jack, as well as stakes winners Georgie Boy and Gayego. While those three all may be able to handle 1 1/16 miles, they also are longshots to do as well at 1 1/4 miles.

Bob Black Jack is a California-bred by restricted stakes winner Stormy Jack (by Bertrando) and is out of a mare by speed influence Native Prospector. The notable name in Bob Black Jack's pedigree is his fourth dam, Nangela. Nangela's most important foal was the ultra-classy Square Angel, the 1973 3-year-old filly champion in Canada and a prolific broodmare who produced Love Smitten, Stellarette, Dancing on a Cloud, and Kamar, the 1979 Canadian champion 3-year-old filly and 1990 Canadian Broodmare of the Year. Square Angel's daughters and granddaughters produced such runners as Swain, Cuddles, Augusta Springs, Nuryette, Northern Afleet, Tap to Music, Katz Me If You Can, Imaginary Cat, Buffythecenterfold, Seaside Attraction, Golden Attraction, Key to the Moon, Gorgeous, and Fantastic Light.

Georgie Boy, winner of the Del Mar Futurity and Graduation Stakes last year at 2, won the San Vicente Stakes. He is by Storm Cat's son Tribal Rule, who is closely related to speed influence Yankee Gentleman, but his female family is weak.

Gayego, by 2-year-old champion Gilded Time, is out of a mare by speed influence Lost Code and has the pedigree to be a good sprinter-miler.

The new face in the San Felipe is Shediak, who is making his 3-year-old debut and first start in the U.S. He is strictly bred for turf, being by Selkirk (Sharpen Up) out of a mare by Fairy King (a full brother to Sadler's Wells), but many grass runners have performed well on synthetic surfaces such as Santa Anita's. A victory on Saturday, however, would not erase doubts about his ability to handle dirt at Churchill Downs.

The well-bred Signature Move and On the Virg step up in class and need to show they can compete with serious 3-year-olds.

Signature Move, from the first crop of Vindication, is out of an El Prado mare - and while his pedigree should be capable at middle distances, the Derby distance is iffy. The 1 1/4 miles of the Derby should be no problem for On the Virg, a son of Pulpit, but he needs to show more than he has in his recent victories. While his dam is by sprint champion Housebuster, he gets an abundance of stamina from his second, third, and fourth damsires - Green Dancer, Sir Ivor, and Amerigo. His fourth dam, Amerigo Lady, was one of Paul Mellon's best distaff runners in the late 1960s. Amerigo Lady is the dam of stakes winner Pass the Glass and the unraced Virginiana, who produced stakes winners Virginia Rapids and Virgin Michael, the second dam of On the Virg.