02/25/2010 1:00AM

Gitano Hernando starting year


Gitano Hernando faces seven rivals on the Lingfield Park Polytrack on Saturday when he preps for the Dubai World Cup in the Winter Derby Trial, a $61,000 race at the World Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles. This will be the first outing for Gitano Hernando, a 4-year-old son of Hernando, since he sprung an 18-1 surprise in the Goodwood Stakes on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride on Oct. 10.

That effort so impressed his owners, Team Valor and Gary Barber, that they immediately withdrew him from consideration for the Breeders' Cup Marathon. Instead, he was returned to Marco Botti's barn in Newmarket to begin preparations for the Dubai World Cup.

Kieren Fallon, who rode him to a neck victory over Colonel John in the 1 1/8-mile Goodwood, will be back in the saddle on Saturday.

Currently the 10-1 co-third favorite with Ladbrokes for the World Cup, Gitano Hernando will spot his opponents six to 12 pounds under the conditions of the race. His most dangerous foe is Suits Me, a 7-year-old son of Bertolini trained by Tom Tate who was a nose second to Baylini in a course-and-distance handicap on Jan. 30.

Also by Bertolini, Baylini was getting 17 pounds from Suits Me that day. On Saturday he will get just five pounds while getting 11 pounds from Gitano Hernando. Moreover, Baylini was just seventh in a similar handicap at Lingfield just two weeks ago.

Regardless of the weights, Gitano Hernando has the class to take this race with a certain aplomb, especially as he is suited to the surface, being 2 for 2 on the Polytrack course at Wolverhampton.- Alan Shuback