07/18/2008 11:00PM

Sailor's Cap goes for No. 2


Barry Irwin is not about to look past Saturday. Irwin said he and "12, maybe 15" of his partners will travel to Virginia to watch the latest Team Valor International star compete in the $750,000 Virginia Derby, the annual highlight of the Colonial Downs meet.

Sailor's Cap, a runaway winner four weeks ago in the Colonial Turf Cup, could get halfway to earning the $5 million "Grand Slam of Grass" bonus by winning the Grade 2 Virginia Derby for Team Valor, but Irwin, the syndicate president, said he has no such delusions of grandeur.

"Honestly, I think it'd be unrealistic to think this horse could get the bonus," said Irwin, alluding to the difficulty of the next two legs, the Aug. 9 Secretariat and Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup Turf. "All we're focused on is the Virginia Derby. I really think winning that would be great in itself."

Sailor's Cap, with Alan Garcia back aboard for trainer Jimmy Toner, is one of nine 3-year-olds entered in the Virginia Derby, which is run at 1 1/4 miles over the lush and spacious turf course for which Colonial, located in New Kent, Va., has become noted.

The June 21 Colonial Cup, run during a torrential rainstorm, represented a breakthrough for Sailor's Cap. The colt rated kindly through the early stages before exploding for a 6 3/4-length victory against four of the same horses he will meet Saturday.

"The hole card is that Jimmy's gotten this horse to settle," said Irwin. "He's got a lot of natural speed."

Probably the most dangerous threat to a Sailor's Cap repeat is Gio Ponti, a winner in 3 of 4 career starts. Trained by Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti looked terrific going last-to-first to capture the Grade 3 Hill Prince on June 6 over the Belmont Park turf.

Other viable possibilities include Old Man Buck, a two-time stakes winner on grass at 2, along with Your Round and Court Vision, both of whom chased Sailor's Cap last month.

The Virginia Derby, first run in 1998, has been won by a number of standouts, most notably eventual Eclipse champions Kitten's Joy in 2004 and English Channel in 2005. It is the anchor of a 90-minute CBS Sports telecast that starts at 5 p.m. Eastern. A 10-race Saturday card also will include the $200,000 Virginia Oaks and $60,000 Kitten's Joy Stakes. First post is 12:55 p.m. Eastern.

The weather forecast for Saturday calls for possible thunderstorms and a high of 93.