04/03/2007 11:00PM

Pletcher springs Wood draw surprises


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The field for Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct took on a dramatically different look when entries were taken Wednesday as trainer Todd Pletcher decided not to run Circular Quay but instead put in Any Given Saturday and Cowtown Cat.

Of those two, only Any Given Saturday is expected to start, with Cowtown Cat slated to run in Saturday's $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne. Thus, the Wood will likely have six starters, led by Remsen winner Nobiz Like Shobiz, Tampa Bay Derby runner-up Any Given Saturday, and Whirlaway winner Summer Doldrums.

Pletcher announced his change of plans Tuesday night, saying he felt Circular Quay needed more time after his victory in the Louisiana Derby on March 10. Pletcher now will train that horse up to the Kentucky Derby on May 5. Circular Quay - who arrived at Keeneland on Tuesday - will enter the Kentucky Derby having not run in eight weeks and without running as far as 1 1/8 miles.

"I know I'm going against what's stated that you can and can't do," Pletcher said by phone from Florida, "but giving horses more time generally has worked best for my horses. Watching him train, I thought it would be best to train him up to the Derby, rather than train him up to a big race like the Wood, and come back another four weeks later for the Derby."

In opting to skip the Wood with Circular Quay, Pletcher felt this race would be a better fit for Any Given Saturday than next weekend's Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Pletcher believes the Wood would be easier on Any Given Saturday than the Blue Grass while also giving him four weeks to the Kentucky Derby.

Any Given Saturday comes off a nose loss to defending 2-year-old champion Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby, in which the two colts hooked up for a stirring stretch drive. Any Given Saturday drew posto6 for the Wood and will be ridden by John Velazquez.

"I think it was a tough last quarter of a mile; obviously both horses ran hard from the top of the stretch home," Pletcher said. "Prior to the quarter pole it wasn't a particularly taxing pace. It wasn't like Any Given Saturday was part of the pace and they were banging heads the whole way."

Pletcher is confident that a top-four finish for Any Given Saturday would provide him with the graded stakes earnings necessary to earn a berth in the Derby field. Currently, Any Given Saturday has graded earnings of $102,969. Graded stakes earnings are the criteria used to determine the Derby field in the event that more than 20 horses enter the race.

Summer Doldrums, who won the listed Whirlaway Stakes, finished a disappointing third in the Grade 3 Gotham. He was found to have mucus in his lungs after the race, but has come back with two solid workouts in the interim. Trainer Rick Violette said the Wood would determine whether Summer Doldrums is Derby material. With only $21,334 in graded earnings, Summer Doldrums needs a top-two finish.

"He needs to be one-two to belong in the race," Violette said. "If he doesn't run good enough it doesn't mean he's not a good enough horse, he just might not be good enough the next few weeks. You have the luxury of picking your Saturday. He's trained well, he's doing great, home-court [advantage], let's bring 'em on and see what we got."

Summer Doldrums will break from post 5 under Mike Luzzi.

Summer Doldrums is a candidate to be on the lead in the Wood. However, Nobiz Like Shobiz, who adds blinkers for the Wood, drew the rail and could also be part of the pace under Cornelio Velasquez. Nobiz Like Shobiz comes off a narrow third-place finish to Scat Daddy in the Fountain of Youth.

The defection of Circular Quay prompted trainer Shug McGaughey to enter Sightseeing in the Wood. McGaughey feels that Any Given Saturday has enough tactical speed to ensure Nobiz Like Shobiz or Summer Doldrums doesn't waltz on the lead, perhaps giving his late-running horse a chance.

Allowance winners Reptilian Smarts and Flashstorm complete the field.- additional reporting by Jay Privman