07/02/2008 11:00PM

Gottcha Gold no longer under the radar


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The talk prior to last year's Salvator Mile centered on Lawyer Ron and how the race would be his springboard to the inaugural Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

Sent off at 1-10, Lawyer Ron made a late run but came up a neck short of catching Gottcha Gold. The favorite was beaten, and a new star was born in the division.

On Saturday, Gottcha Gold tops the Grade 3 Salvator at Monmouth Park, facing five rivals in the return to the race that put him on the map.

"We're kind of in Lawyer Ron's spot now," said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. "Everybody expected Lawyer Ron to win and he got beat. Everybody will probably be expecting us to win. Hopefully we'll reverse last year's trend."

This year, the Salvator is a Breeders' Cup Challenge Win and You're In race, with the winner getting an automatic berth in the Dirt Mile at Santa Anita in October.

Following last year's Salvator, Gottcha Gold also took the Grade 3 Iselin Handicap here in August before closing out the season with a game second in the rain-soaked Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Monmouth.

The 5-year-old Gottcha Gold is in fine form, winning the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream Park while missing by only a neck in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special.

"He's doing as good as he's ever done," Plesa said. "I couldn't feel any better about how he's coming into the race."

The major change will be in the saddle. Regular rider Chuckie Lopez, who was an excellent complement to Gottcha Gold's abundant early speed, remains sidelined with a foot injury. That job now goes to Eddie Castro.

"It all boils down to how well Eddie gets along with this horse," Plesa said. "I think he'll get along with him fine. Eddie is smart. He's looked at tapes of this horse, numerous races. He's seen the horse's likes and dislikes. He'll pick up on all that."

Gottcha Gold will renew his rivalry with Indy Wind, who finished third in last year's Salvator and Iselin.

Indy Wind, 6, will be retired at the end of this year by owner-trainer Amy Tarrant. He has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, and Tarrant would love to see the horse capture a graded stakes before bowing out.

"I've had him since he was a baby, and I want a nice future for him as a stallion," Tarrant said. "It's very important that we do this before he gets retired."

Stewart Elliott, aboard for Indy Wind's dominant win in the Frisk Me Now Stakes here on June 7, has the return call.

Completing the field are Honest Man, Better Than Bonds, Notional, and Rathor.

Mr. Prospector: Joey P. in off two weeks' rest

They say the modern Thoroughbred is a delicate flower that can't stand up to a heavy diet of racing.

"They" haven't met Joey P.

The durable New Jersey-bred gelding is back in action in the $75,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes at six furlongs, only two weeks after an easy win in the Charles Town Dash Handicap.

Joey P. has post 3 in the field of 10 3-year-olds and up. From the rail, his opponents are Celtic Innis, Ferocious Fires, Mr. Umphrey, Maddy's Lion, Hombresactlikemens, Forest Park, Vicarage, Callmetony, and Noble Truth.