12/07/2006 1:00AM

Inaugural draws runners from near and far


OLDSMAR, Fla. – There is nothing more daunting to a horseplayer than a full field of young runners coming from a number of different racetracks, but that’s exactly what players will face on Saturday when 11 2-year-olds go to the post in the $60,000 Inaugural Stakes, the opening day feature at Tampa Bay Downs.

With five of the starters coming into the Inaugural off wins, there is no clear-cut favorite, but a good deal of public support will most likely go in the direction of Dream of Angels. A Trippi colt, Dream of Angels successfully moved from the Midwest to win the Jack Price Juvenile Stakes over Florida-breds at Calder on Nov. 11. Dream of Angels, who is trained by Steve Standridge, dueled for the lead throughout that seven-furlong sprint and held on by a neck over Green Vegas, who came back to finish second last weekend in Calder’s What a Pleasure Stakes. The Price was the third straight victory for Dream of Angels, following wins at Lone Star and Remington Park.

Richard Eramia will ride at 122 pounds.

Horses from Great Lakes Downs have a history of success in the Inaugural, and that trend could continue when veteran horseman Gerald Bennett sends out All I Can Get in search of his fourth straight win.

All I Can Get, a Slew City Slew gelding bred by his owner, Michael McQuade, won at first asking in July, then came back after a short break to take both the Little Ones and Patrick Woods Stakes at the Inaugural distance of six furlongs.

Terry Houghton will be aboard at 122.

An interesting wagering possibility could be Blind Bet. Claimed by trainer Jane Cibelli for $35,000 at Monmouth Park in September, Blind Bet was shipped to Delaware for his next start and promptly wired a field of $50,000 claiming juveniles going six furlongs. He next raced at the Meadowlands, where he romped romped over allowance company by more than three lengths.

Jose Lezcano, last year’s leading rider here, adds to the wagering appeal of Blind Bet.

Others in the field worth noting are El Bandido Rojo, who turns back to a sprint after leading into the stretch of the $150,000 Foolish Pleasure over a mile and 70 yards at Calder, and Noted Appeal, who makes his first start for the respected Judson Van Worp stable after being claimed for $25,000 last time out.

Deep riding colony expected

While there are some new additions to the jockey colony this season, the battle for leading rider could well center around Lezcano, Daniel Centeno, and Houghton.

Lezcano followed his title here last year with a standout meeting at Monmouth, where he finished second to perennial power Joe Bravo with 98 wins.

Houghton won the riding title at Great Lakes Downs by a wide margin and Centeno, who came on strong late in this meeting to finish second in the standings, had a solid summer and fall at Calder.

Oddly enough, former jockey and fan favorite Herson Sanchez will serve as agent for both Houghton and Centeno, as Houghton’s long time agent, Frank “The Greek” Garofolo has opted to stay in Michigan this winter.

An interesting newcomer is Buddy Winnett, who comes here from Delaware Park where he won 33 races to finish 13th in a tough colony that included Ramon Dominguez and Jeremy Rose.