02/03/2011 3:25PM

Preachintothedevil on the rise for Whirlaway at Aqueduct

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Gary Contessa will send out Preachintothedevil in this year's Whirlaway.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer Gary Contessa doesn’t feel the same kind of pressure entering this year’s Whirlaway Stakes as he did last year.

A year ago, Contessa watched in horror as his 1-4 favorite Eightyfiveinafifty bore out entering the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile race, unseated jockey Jorge Chavez, crashed through two fences, and ran loose through the Aqueduct barn area. Save for a few nasty cuts, Eightyfiveinafifty was generally okay and would eventually go on to win the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes.

In Saturday’s 32nd renewal of the Whirlaway, a $100,000 stakes race that drew seven 3-year-olds, Contessa will send out the New York-bred Preachintothedevil, who has already proven himself around two turns and is one of just two stakes winners (Sky Music being the other) in the field.

“I’m not going to be worried about the first turn,” Contessa joked in his Aqueduct barn office Thursday morning. “This is a different kind of horse. He’s not as fast as Eightyfiveinafifty. Last year, Eightyfiveinafifty was just so impressive, and I had so much pressure on me. I don’t have that pressure on me with this horse. We’re trying to figure out where we are with this horse.”

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Preachintothedevil, a son of Pulpit, won an off-the-turf maiden race by 7 1/4 lengths on Nov. 6 and then came back with a decent third in the Damon Runyon Stakes over the inner track Dec. 5. He came back on New Year’s Day to take the Champagneforashley Stakes for New York-breds by 3 1/4 lengths.

“I think mentally he’s gotten better and better and better,” said Contessa, who blew Preachintothedevil out two furlongs Thursday morning. “Physically, he’s gotten more and more aggressive. We got our hands full training that boy.”

Preachintothedevil will have his hands full facing the likes of Rescind the Trade, J.J.’s Lucky Train, and Toby’s Corner in the Whirlaway.

Rescind the Trade is 2 for 2, including an allowance win over the inner track in December where he beat Pants on Fire by a neck. Pants on Fire came back to run second in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds. Rescind the Trade shipped to south Florida, but trainer Rick Violette felt his horse did not handle the heat well, so he went him back north.

J.J.’s Lucky Train, claimed for $40,000 by trainer Bill Anderson, ran a decent second to Monzon in the Count Fleet here last month. Anderson is taking the blinkers off his colt for the Whirlaway.

“I think it might help him relax a little,” Anderson said. “Last time, he was a little rank the first part of it. But I thought it was a big effort. He went with Pants on Fire and put him away.”

Toby’s Corner has won his last two, and the son of 2005 Wood Memorial winner Bellamy Road should appreciate two turns. Sky Music, third to Preachintothedevil last out, Arthur’s Tale, and Norman Asbjornson complete the field.