07/12/2006 11:00PM

Pace key factor in Ohio Derby

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NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - High Cotton, a stakes winner in 3 of his last 4 starts, is a deserving favorite in Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Ohio Derby, but the expected quick pace in the six-horse field could compromise his chances.

has been judiciously handled by trainer Todd Pletcher while being spotted a cut below the nation's top 3-year-olds, and the colt has responded by winning three stakes: the Grade 3 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs, the Sir Barton at Pimlico, and the Rushaway at Turfway Park.

"I think this is another race that he fits very well in," Pletcher said.

High Cotton may be on the lead Saturday but he probably won't have things his own way.

"He doesn't have to be on the lead, but he'll be close," Pletcher said. "He'll ensure an honest pace anyway."

High Cotton is co-highweighted at 121 pounds and will be ridden by Chris DeCarlo.

is the lone deep closer in the field. He was ninth in the Belmont Stakes last time out but did finish a closing second to Brother Derek in the Grade 2 Santa Catalina Stakes in March. The pace of this race will work in his favor, as will the 1 1/8-mile distance.

Based in California with trainer David Hofmans, Sacred Light will be ridden by Aaron Gryder.

The other members of the field, who should all be close to the pace, are Deputy Glitters, Flashy Bull, Sayhellotolarry, and Tri Uimet.

, also weighted at 121, won the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby but has been soundly beaten in his last three starts: the Wood Memorial, Kentucky Derby, and Belmont. Saturday's class drop makes him a solid threat under jockey Rene Douglas.

Trainer Thomas Albertrani believes Deputy Glitters displaced his palate during the Belmont. He will equip Deputy Glitters with a tongue tie for the Ohio Derby.

Deputy Glitters had a sharp five-furlong workout in 59.37 seconds on June 29.

"He's more aggressive going into the race, which I like to see," said Albertrani.

Flashy Bull's best effort this year came in the Fountain of Youth when he finished third and was placed second. He is coming off a third-place finish to the undefeated Minister's Bid in a Belmont allowance.

Sayhellotolarry turned in the best effort of his career in his last start, finishing third to High Cotton at 25-1 in the Northern Dancer BC.

Locally based Tri Uimet, an Ohio-bred, won the Cleveland Gold Cup in his last start. He will be dangerous if the better known entrants leave him alone on the lead.

Three stakes on undercard

The Ohio Derby undercard includes three $50,000 stakes: the Isi Newborn, the Scarlet Carnation, and the George Lewis Memorial.

Bernie Blue is the one to catch in the Newborn. He won this race last year and is a perfect 5 for 5 over the local strip.

In the Scarlet Carnation, Bullcat ships in from Mountaineer Park, where she has won her last three races by a combined 27 lengths.

Only One King, Cat Singer, and Catlaunch are the top horses in the 1 1/8-mile Lewis Memorial.

- additional reporting by David Grening