09/12/2007 11:00PM

Kodiak Kowboy gets tougher test in Futurity

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - After three soft-trip victories against suspect company, Kodiak Kowboy rose to the challenges thrust upon him in last month's Grade 2 Saratoga Special.

Racing on the inside of horses while facing better competition, Kodiak Kowboy proved himself to be among the elite of the 2-year-old division with a strong three-length victory in the Saratoga Special. Saturday, he'll seek to remain near the top of his division when he takes on five rivals in the Grade 2, $250,000 Futurity at Belmont Park.

Kodiak Kowboy, a son of Posse, brings a four-race winning streak into the seven-furlong Futurity where he'll face five maiden winners. The Leopard and Tale of Ekati may represent the toughest competition Kodiak Kowboy has faced to date.

Still, trainer Steve Asmussen goes into the Futurity full of confidence based on how Kodiak Kowboy ran his last race. Kodiak Kowboy will break from post 6 under Shaun Bridgmohan.

"Just what a professional he is, he can run his race from anywhere without any of the excuses that 90 percent of horses use," Asmussen said Thursday when asked what impressed him about the Special. "He was stuck in behind horses, not a lot of room, got a seam and he worked through it. I thought it was extremely impressive and it seemed to be very fast as well.''

In the Special, Kodiak Kowboy ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.95, the fastest of 12 Specials run at the distance. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99.

The Leopard and Tale of Ekati look like the major rivals for Kodiak Kowboy in the Futurity.

The Leopard, a son of Storm Cat who sold for $2.5 million at auction earlier this year, won a six-furlong maiden race by a half-length on Aug. 11 after finishing second in his debut here June 30. In both races, he was buried on the inside early on. In his win, he got off the rail in deep stretch and rallied to get up late.

"I thought he got a pretty good education both times, overcame a little bit of adversity second start," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I like the way, once he did get clear, he really kicked on. Sometimes those things can pay dividends down the road."

Tale of Ekati was a good-looking debut winner here July 7 before running second to Ready's Image in the Grade 2 Sanford. He emerged from that race with bucked shins, but trainer Barclay Tagg has been pleased with how the colt has trained in the last two weeks.

Mythical Pegasus, Paint, and Stand Pat complete the field.