02/14/2002 12:00AM

Slew Valley starts year as standout in stakes

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OLDSMAR Fla. - Slew Valley is another of Michael Dickinson's band of turf stars. His accomplishments last season included a close third to With Anticipation in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer and a game second to King Cugat in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap.

Slew Valley is slated to make his 2002 debut Saturday as he tops a field of 14 entered for the $85,000 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup Stakes at 1 1/16 miles over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.

Slew Valley, a 5-year-old son of Valley Crossing, made just six starts last year but competed in stakes company in five of those races for owners Rich Meadow Farm and Alan Burkhard.

Slew Valley held the lead to the closing stages of the 11-furlong Bowling Green before hanging late to finish a half-length behind King Cugat. He was also in the thick of things to the late stages of the Sword Dancer before weakening just slightly to wind up third, beaten two lengths by top grass specialist With Anticipation.

Jesus Castanon, who escaped serious injury here in a spill on Tuesday, has been named by Dickinson to ride Slew Valley.

From the Kinsman Stable, Boastful, winner of his 2002 debut over allowance rivals at Gulfstream and a close third in the Pete Axthelm Stakes last December at Calder in his first stakes appearance, tops the challengers to Slew Valley, along with Broadway Snowman, owned by Arthur Appleton. Broadway Snowman had an eventful trip running eighth in the Grade 2 Appleton in his 2002 bow. Broadway Snowman won two of his last three starts in 2001.

Terry Houghton, currently leading the rider's standings locally, is named on Boastful by trainer Bill Mott.

Dog Tags, owned by Fredrick Kirby, and Monument, who races for Foster and Leonard LLC, both come into Saturday's race having won their last two outings over the local course, top the local hopefuls in the race, which features $35,000 in purse money from the Breeders' Cup Fund.

Russell Woolsey will handle Dog Tags again, while Pedro Rodriguez gets then call on Monument.

Warrant, who looked very impressive for owner William Rickman winning a prep for Saturday's feature, also deserves consideration in a race that looks like a wide-open affair.

Another to watch is Tour of the Cat, a runner from Double G Stable who used his fine speed to take a pair of stakes last season, including a front-running tally in The Vid Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Calder.

The feature will be run as the 10th race on the 11-race program, and Tampa Bay Downs also holds the second in a series of handicapping contests on Saturday.

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