06/14/2006 11:00PM

Shorter distance suits Private Vow


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - was never a factor six weeks ago in the 132nd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. The normally handy Private Vow got off to a slow start, then encountered a substantial amount of traffic en route to his 15th-place finish.

Those spots of trouble give license to Steve Asmussen to whine, but going into the 1 1/16-mile Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Stakes at Churchill on Saturday, the trainer isn't about to use it.

"No excuse," said Asmussen. "He didn't stay the 1 1/4-mile distance. This race Saturday, this is the distance he needs to run."

Private Vow, owned by Mike McCarty, is the logical favorite in a field of seven 3-year-olds in the fifth running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Northern Dancer BC. With Shaun Bridgmohan to ride, Private Vow will break from the inside post when he seeks his first win since he captured the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall as an odds-on choice.

The Todd Pletcher-trained High Cotton, the KJC runner-up and a wire-to-wire winner of the Sir Barton Stakes four weeks ago on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico, is among the chief opposition for Private Vow. Both Asmussen and Pletcher have a second horse entered in the Northern Dancer: Admiral's Arch for Asmussen, and Circle the World for Pletcher.

Asmussen said an ideal set-up for Private Vow would be for the colt to sit just off the pace before moving on. But if Private Vow is unable to carry the stable banner, then the late-running Admiral's Arch is eligible to come to the rescue. Admiral's Arch, said Asmussen, is "a nice, big horse who's coming on. I thought he deserved a chance in this kind of race. This should let us sort out what we do with both of these horses for the rest of the year."

The others in the Northern Dancer, which goes as the seventh of 11 races, are Sayhellotolarry, Simon Pure, and Cielo Gold.