03/13/2008 12:00AM

Gottcha Gold seeks to bounce back


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. is willing to throw out Gottcha Gold's last start, a ninth-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Classic. The question is, will handicappers be as forgiving when they assess the chances of the likely favorite in Saturday's $150,000 Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream Park?

Gottcha Gold will carry top weight of 118 pounds in an evenly matched field that finds the high and low weights separated by a mere four pounds. Gottcha Gold earned his impost off a string of huge efforts during his 2007 campaign, a streak that included a pair of Grade 3 wins as a prelude to his second-place finish to Corinthian in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

All of those races were run at Monmouth Park, and Plesa is hoping to dispel the notion that Gottcha Gold is simply a horse for the course on the Jersey shore.

"I'm throwing out that last race over the artificial surface at Santa Anita," Plesa said. "I guess this race will tell me whether I should or not. And it's probably a pivotal race in the sense that maybe it will tell us if he's a regional horse or not. At least that's what's probably going through people's minds, especially after his last start."

Gottcha Gold is at his best on the lead, as he was in the Breeders' Cup, but he could face some early pace pressure in the 1 1/8-mile Skip Away if trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. decides to start Mr. Umphrey on just four days' rest.

"I'm satisfied with our post, and he did lay off a horse and did it kindly when he won the one stakes at Monmouth last summer," said Plesa when asked if the presence of Mr. Umphrey in the lineup has him concerned.

Mr. Umphrey, who won a third-level allowance race going 6 1/2 furlongs Monday, could prove to be a rabbit for stablemate Frost Giant, who enters the Skip Away off an impressive allowance win when making his career debut on dirt. A multiple Group 3 winner on grass in Europe prior to coming to the United States during fall 2006, Frost Giant figures to trip out nicely behind the early leaders under jockey Edgar Prado.

Trainer Graham Motion is hoping Better Than Bonds will have a little better racing luck than in his last start when he finished fourth to Grasshopper in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds on Feb. 9.