04/01/2009 11:00PM

The Nutz looks tough in Dowd Mile

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - The Nutz continues on the road to defend his championship status at Fonner Park when he heads a field of 10 entered for Saturday's $20,000 Dowd Mile Stakes.

The Nutz rattled off three consecutive wins here last year on the way to being named horse of the meet. He won his maiden going away, then returned to take an entry-level allowance. Trainer Steve Hall then jumped the The Nutz into stakes company in the meet's premiere event, the $75,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes.

Hall's confidence proved well founded as The Nutz responded to win the 1 1/16-mile race at 25-1 for his third win. The Nutz went on to take an allowance and the State Fair Board Stakes at Lincoln. In his final start of year, he fell a half-length short of capturing the $50,000 Omaha Stakes at Horsemen's Park.

He appears well on his way to returning to defend his Bosselman title. The Nutz opened this year's campaign by rallying from well back to take the Budweiser Tondi Stakes at six furlongs on March 14. He worked five furlongs in a 1:01.80 last Sunday and should be a strong favorite in the Dowd with Damon Leeds set to ride.

Tiger Lake, second in the Budweiser-Tondi, should be the main competition. Trained by David Anderson, Tiger Lake was also making his first start of the year in that race and was a clear leader in midstretch before succumbing to The Nutz's rally.

First Class Brass and Skwhirl should also pose threats here. Skwhirl, trained by Bob Rising, captured the Ogataul Stakes here on Feb. 28, then finished fifth in the Budweiser-Tondi. First Class Brass, trained by Kelli Martinez, led through the final turn of this race last year before fading to fifth. First Class Brass made his only start this year in the half-mile Grasmick Stakes, finishing fourth to Tonight Rainbow.