05/01/2002 11:00PM

Monthir stretches out in Withers

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JAMAICA, N.Y. - On Saturday, the national spotlight will be on the 3-year-olds in the Kentucky Derby. At Aqueduct, another group of 3-year-olds will attract local attention in the $150,000 Withers.

The Withers is the ninth race on a 10-race card at Aqueduct on Kentucky Derby Day.

Among the horses entered in the Grade 3 Withers is Monthir, the third-place finisher in the seven-furlong Bay Shore on April 13. The Withers field also includes Shah Jehan, who was purchased for $4.4 million at Keeneland as a yearling, and Fast Decision, a winner of two of three career starts. Looking to rebound off his loss as the favorite in the Bay Shore is Listen Here, who took part in a sizzling pace and faded to sixth.

Monthir, who was coming off a poor performance in the two-turn Florida Derby, was closing strongly at the finish of the Grade 3 Bay Shore and was beaten two lengths by the winner, Roman Dancer.

Mark Hennig, Monthir's trainer, believes the mile distance of the Withers will suit his colt well.

"He was coming on really well at the end," Hennig said. "I hope a little more ground will make the difference this time."

Robbie Davis will ride Monthir.

Shah Jehan, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, was scratched out of last weekend's Derby Trial when the track came up sloppy. The Mr. Prospector colt is coming off a strong effort in a Keeneland allowance race last month following off-the-board efforts in a pair of California stakes. Shah Jehan, who began his career in Europe with trainer Aidan O'Brien, earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 101 in Keeneland's seven-furlong race, which he won by 3 1/2 lengths.

Mike Maker, Lukas's assistant said, "[Shah Jehan] has been a slow developer, but really has started to come around."

Richard Migliore rides Shah Jehan.

Christophe Clement, who won the Withers with Blu Tusmani in 1995 and Statesmanship in 1997, sends out Fast Decision. Fast Decision, a Gulch colt, is coming off comfortable back-to-back allowance wins at seven furlongs at Gulfstream.

"He's an improving type," Clement said.

Jose Santos, shooting for his third Withers win, rides Fast Decision.

Lord ofthe Thunder, a New York-bred, returned to action on April 13, his first race since January, and finished second in a first-level allowance race. Previously, the Saint Ballado colt destroyed his rivals in restricted company at the Big A in the winter. Lord ofthe Thunder's connections, owner Paraneck Stable, trainer Joe Aquilino, and jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. are enjoying a strong Aqueduct spring meet.

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