04/25/2008 11:00PM

Harlem Rocker remains perfect in Withers

Email

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher's recent assault on North America's 3-year-old graded stakes continued Saturday at Aqueduct when Harlem Rocker blew past odds-on favorite J Be K inside the eighth pole to win the Grade 3, $150,000 Withers Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths.

J Be K, who set all the early fractions under Garrett Gomez, finished second by 7 3/4 lengths over Double or Nothing. Face the Cat was last.

The victory was the third from as many starts for Harlem Rocker, a Canadian-bred son of Macho Uno owned and bred by Frank Stronach. Harlem Rocker is part of the Adena Springs Racing Venture, a package of six Stronach-bred colts that Stronach owns with other partners.

For Pletcher, the Withers victory comes two weeks after Monba and Cowboy Cal ran one-two in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland and one week after Behindatthebar won the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes, also at Keeneland.

While the Withers did produce 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini, Harlem Rocker is most likely going to target the $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes at Woodbine on June 1 and then the $1 million Queen's Plate on June 22.

Under Eibar Coa, Harlem Rocker settled into fourth position while J Be K set fractions of 23.91 seconds, 46.41, and 1:09.53 being chased by Double or Nothing.

Harlem Rocker moved into third after a half-mile, came four wide into the stretch, went past J Be K inside the eighth pole, and drew clear while lugging in somewhat late. Harlem Rocker ($6.60) covered the mile in 1:34.50.

"I was a little bit concerned that he was a little bit too close today, but he took me there himself so I kind of let him be,'' said Coa, who has ridden Harlem Rocker in all three starts. "At the five-sixteenths pole I thought if Garrett and J Be K are just good enough they're going to draw off and beat me, but I knew he was going to finish. At the end he started playing around just because he's still green, but he showed he can compete against these horses.''

Beaugay: Criminologist goes last to first

Criminologist ($3.70), last early on, rallied down the center of the turf course under John Velazquez to run down All is Vanity and win the Grade 3, $108,200 Beaugay Handicap by one-half length. All is Vanity finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Factual Contender.

Sweet Ransom and Just Little completed the order of finish.

It was the fifth victory in the last six starts for Criminologist, a 5-year-old daughter of Maria's Mon owned and bred by Stuart Janney III and the Phipps family. She is trained by Shug McGaughey, who won this race in 1986 with Duty Dance.

Velazquez let Criminologist settle in fifth while All is Vanity ran fractions of 24.08 seconds, 48.02, and 1:11.49 while being pressed by Factual Contender.

Criminologist had to rally four wide into the stretch, but Velazquez had yet to ask his mare until just outside inside the eighth pole when he went right-handed and Criminologist overtook All is Vanity for the victory. Criminologist covered the 1 1/16 miles over firm turf in 1:41.44.

"Even though I had to go four wide at the three-eighths pole I didn't want to let her go too soon,'' Velazquez said. "She's a class act, you can do whatever you want with her, I wish all the horses were like her.''

The Beaugay was the third Grade 3 stakes victory for Criminologist, who will now be pointed to the Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes at Belmont on June 7.