10/21/2010 3:40PM

Hudson and Iroquois top Showcase Day pick fours

Susie Raisher/NYRA
Driven by Success, winning last year's Hudson, returns to defend his title Saturday at Belmont.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The Hudson and the Iroquois, a pair of $125,000 sprints, figure prominently in both pick-four sequences on the Showcase Day program.

The six-furlong Hudson for males goes as race 2 and starts the early pick four; the seven-furlong Iroquois for fillies and mares goes as race 8 and is the second leg of a $300,000 guaranteed late pick four.

The Hudson drew a field of eight, headed by last year’s winner, Driven by Success, and Endless Circle, who will be looking for his eighth victory of the year.

Driven by Success rebounded from an off-the-board finish in the Grade 1 Forego by wiring a sloppy renewal of the Hudson last fall for Bruce Levine. A year later, he will take a similar class drop for Todd Pletcher after running fifth in the Grade 1 Vosburgh as the second choice.

“He’s been a top-level New York-bred sprinter and should fit well in this spot,” Pletcher said.

Driven by Success has notched triple-digit Beyer Figures in three victories this year at age 5.

Endless Circle has been one of the major success stories for Rudy Rodriguez, the jockey-turned-trainer who claimed him for $14,000 in mid-April, just a few weeks after hanging up his tack. A 6-year-old, Endless Circle has won four of five starts for Rodriguez, including a four-length score over Driven by Success in the John Morrissey at Saratoga.

“We liked the way he was running, and he won a stake as a 2-year-old, so he’s always had class,” Rodriguez said, referring to the 2006 Aspirant Stakes. “He’s been very good to us, and we’ve been very lucky with him.”

Rodriguez held an 18-11 lead over Pletcher atop the standings with nine racing days remaining at the meet.

Be Bullish, eighth in last year’s Hudson, comes off a second-place finish to Endless Circle in an overnight stakes.

Rollers, who finished second as the 8-5 in the 2008 Hudson, has made one start against New York-breds since then, and that was on turf. He makes his third start back from an extended absence for Barclay Tagg and is among the fastest sprinters in the race on his best day.

General Maximus, a 3-year-old who won a division of the New York Stallion here in May, takes on older rivals for the first time. He came out of the Grade 2 Amsterdam with a respiratory infection and may be set to improve after running third in his comeback behind Endless Circle.

Raynicks Jet, a Steve Asmussen-trained 3-year-old, makes his first start since running third at 1-5 in the Ontario County at Finger Lakes on July 31.

A competitive group of 11 fillies and mares, many of whom have taken turns beating each other, will line up in the Iroquois. The field includes My Dinah and Sapphire Sky, who ran second and third in last year’s edition and most recently ran third and fourth in the Anniron overnight stakes behind R Betty Graybull and Meese Rocks.

Sapphire Sky, a certified mud lark, makes her second start back from a layoff for David Donk; she is 6 for 10 on wet tracks but is winless in eight other starts.

Meese Rocks was a dominating winner of the six-furlong Union Avenue two starts back.

“It didn’t surprise me that she won – it was how she won,” trainer Eddie Barker said.

A 5-year-old mare, Meese Rocks has seven wins in 14 starts the last two seasons. The big hurdle for Meese Rocks will be the seventh furlong, a distance at which she has been unable to hold the lead in three previous attempts on turf and dirt.

City Broad won or placed in her first six starts this year and has been freshened up by Bruce Levine since running third in the Union Avenue. She comes off a pair of bullet workouts and drops five pounds from the Union Avenue under the allowance conditions.

“She’s a hard-knocker,” Levine said. “She tries hard every time.”

Other contenders include Lovely Lil, who was fourth in the Grade 1 Test for Mike Hushion, and Mother Russia, a six-time stakes winner for Linda Rice.