Updated on 09/18/2011 12:52AM

Luxembourg, Bernardini throw down


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The overabundance of races for 3-year-olds at this time of year combined with some untimely defections left just four horses entered to run in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.

With Smokey Stover staying home in northern California, Diabolical opting to run in an allowance race on Tuesday at Delaware, and Chatain developing a 104-degree fever Thursday morning, the one-mile Withers looms a showdown between Luxembourg and Bernardini.

Doc Cheney and Rob'em Blind are the other two who passed the entry box.

were to have met in a first-level allowance race on the Wood Memorial undercard on April 8. Bernardini developed a foot bruise the morning of the race and Luxembourg cruised to an easy four-length victory as the 4-5 favorite. That victory came one month after he won a maiden race by four lengths at Gulfstream.

"I couldn't have been happier with his races," said Richard Dutrow Jr., who took over the training of Luxembourg this winter. "I don't think the jockeys [bore] down on him in either one of his races. He hasn't beaten anything that can run yet, but he gets to run out of his own stall, same distance, same track and it's not a real tough race."

Edgar Prado, aboard for Luxembourg's maiden win, is back aboard on Saturday and will likely stalk Bernardini, who looms the main speed in this short field.

Bernardini, a son of A.P Indy, comes off a 7 1/4-length maiden win at Gulfstream on March 4. He dueled for the lead in that race before drawing clear in the stretch in a very solid effort.

A cough and a bruised foot is why he has had eight weeks between races, but he had eight weeks between his first start - a fourth-place finish behind highly regarded Exclusive Quality - and his maiden win.

Trainer Tom Albertrani had been pointing Bernardini to an allowance race on Friday, but opted to run in here because the race came up light. Bernardini worked a very strong five furlongs in 59.82 seconds on Wednesday over Aqueduct's main track.

Doc Cheney, trained by Nick Zito, won both of his starts at 2, but is winless in three starts this year.