09/23/2010 3:23PM

Interactif, Workin for Hops square off in Kent

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Barbara D. Livingston
Interactif (left) beats Grand Rapport in the Hall of Fame. Both return for Saturday's Kent Breeders' Cup.

Paddy O’Prado, with three consecutive graded stakes wins to his credit, right now is the best 3-year-old turf horse in the country. Interactif and Workin for Hops, however, aren’t far behind.

Interactif and Workin for Hops, both of whom have finished second to Paddy O’Prado within the last two months and have a Grade 2 victory on their resumes, meet for the first time in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Kent Breeders’ Cup at Delaware Park.

Run at 1 1/8 miles, the Kent also lured Grand Rapport, who missed by a nose to Interactif last time out; Stormy Lord, winner of the $174,000 Toronto Cup; and Lentenor, a full brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

Interactif, based in New York with trainer Todd Pletcher, is the probable favorite based on his nose win over Grand Rapport in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga last month and his second-place finish, 1 1/2 lengths behind Paddy O’Prado, in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby on July 17.

Workin for Hops, shipping in from Chicago for trainer Mike Stidham, won the Grade 2 American Derby at Arlington on the same day as the Virginia Derby. He met Paddy O’Prado twice, finishing three lengths behind as the runner-up in the Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup and two lengths back as the third-place finisher in the Grade 1 Secretariat on Aug. 21.

Each of Workin for Hop’s last three races has been at either 1 3/16 miles or 1 1/4 miles. Stidham said he feels the slight cutback in distance to nine furlongs for the Kent is ideal for his horse.

“I think a mile and an eighth is right around his optimum distance, so I think the distance of the race suits him really well,” Stidham said.

Gary Contessa, the trainer of Grand Rapport, said he is looking forward to a rematch with Interactif after Grand Rapport nearly won a graded stakes in his second lifetime start on grass.

“He probably should have won the Hall of Fame,” Contessa said. “He won the race one jump before the wire and one jump after the wire; he just got nailed right on the wire. He is training well, and he is coming into this race perfect.”

Grand Rapport will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, who has won the Kent three times since 2001.

Stormy Lord will be making his first career start in the United States after going 4 for 8 on turf in Canada. He most recently finished second in the 1 1/2-mile, $500,000 Breeders’ – the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

“This is going to be tougher than what he has been facing, but he ran a big race last time going a mile and a half, which is probably quite a bit further then he wants to go,” trainer Ian Black said. “I would say he is a better horse at a mile and an eighth than he is at a mile and a half.”

Lentenor will be making his second start off a long layoff. He was third as the 1-2 favorite in a 7 1/2-furlong optional claimer Aug. 24.