07/28/2008 12:00AM

Kodiak Kowboy outfights Desert Key

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Larry Jones won Monday's $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga with Kodiak Kowboy, but took very little of the credit for his colt's hard-fought head decision over a courageous Desert Key in the Grade 2 sprint for 3-year-olds.

Kodiak Kowboy was transferred from trainer Steve Asmussen to Jones's barn at Fair Hill, Md., earlier this month. Kodiak Kowboy, who is owned by the Vinery Stable and Fox Hill Farm, had not started since finishing second behind Macho Again in the Derby Trial on April 26.

"I've got to give so much of the credit for this win to Steve," said Jones. "He had already been pointing him to this race and had him ready to win when he was transferred over. All I did was continue on with what had already been given us."

Jones also praised his regular rider Gabriel Saez for another job well done.

"Gabriel has stepped up every time I've asked him this year," said Jones. "I'm real proud of him. If Gabe can get heads up with you in the stretch he will not get beat."

Kodiak Kowboy, who easily won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special for Asmussen at 2, settled within easy striking distance of early leaders Desert Key and Eaton's Gift while racing wide down the backstretch. Desert Key tugged his way to the lead along the inside leaving the backstretch and remained clear into the stretch, where he was joined by Kodiak Kowboy. The pair raced as a team through the final furlong with Desert Key holding on tenaciously near the rail before Kodiak Kowboy wore him down in the final yards.

Devereux finished another 4 1/2 lengths farther back in third. He was followed by Silver Edition, Excess Capital, the slow-starting Fidelio, and Eaton's Gift.

Kodiak Kowboy covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.56 over a fast track and paid $6.10.

Jones said Kodiak Kowboy will return for the Grade 1 King's Bishop here on Aug. 23.

"The King's Bishop was the game plan and I knew he'd need this race under his belt, so we'll come back and try to win this one two years in a row," said Jones, who won the 2007 King's Bishop with Hard Spun.