09/26/2006 11:00PM

Pletcher-trained trio on separate paths

Email

Todd Pletcher, the nation's leading trainer, has three of the top contenders for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, and they will take three different approaches to the race.

Circular Quay, the winner of the Hopeful Stakes, will stretch out around two turns for the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 7. Scat Daddy, the Hopeful runner-up, will go to the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 14. And King of the Roxy, who captured last weekend's Belmont Futurity, will not have another race between now and Breeders' Cup Day, Nov. 4.

Circular Quay is considered the division's pro-tem leader. The Breeders' Futurity will give him a chance to stretch out around two turns, a critical consideration this year, since a 1 1/16-mile race - the distance of the Juvenile - is a two-turn race at Churchill Downs, as opposed to a one-turn race at Belmont, where the Breeders' Cup was held last year.

"He's a horse who should appreciate two turns and a mile and a sixteenth," said Pletcher, who said another factor in going to Keeneland is that owner Michael Tabor and bloodstock agent Demi O'Byrne want to race their horses on Polytrack when appropriate. Keeneland will race on Polytrack for the first time this fall.

The Champagne, Breeders' Futurity, and the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting Oct. 8 are shaping up as the most-significant final prep races for the Juvenile. In addition to Scat Daddy, the Champagne will have Nobiz Like Shobiz, who crushed maidens in his debut earlier this month at Belmont.

The Breeders' Futurity is likely to include Great Hunter, who was second to Horse Greeley in the Del Mar Futurity. "I'm 60-40 to go there," said Doug O'Neill, trainer of Great Hunter.

Horse Greeley heads those aiming for the Norfolk, and it is shaping up as a terrific race. Also scheduled for the Norfolk are Principle Secret, who captured the Best Pal Stakes after defeating Horse Greeley in a maiden race; Black Seventeen, who was a fast winner against maidens at Del Mar; and Malt Magic, who gave jockey Victor Espinoza one of his seven victories at Del Mar on Sept. 4 when he romped against maidens going one mile.

Espinoza is sticking with Horse Greeley for the Norfolk. Malt Magic's trainer, Bob Baffert, said David Flores will pick up the mount.

Baffert said E Z Warrior, the winner of the Hollywood Juvenile Championship who missed the Del Mar meeting with sore shins, is back galloping, but will miss the Breeders' Cup.

Other top 2-year-olds who might bypass the Juvenile include C P West and Officer Rocket.

"He's only had two races," said Nick Zito, who trains C P West, the Belmont Futurity runner-up. "We're keeping our options open. Never say never."

Bob Holthus, the trainer of Officer Rocket, said he is looking at the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs Oct. 29, and then perhaps the rich Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs.