12/02/2010 2:07PM

Stachys figures closer to pace in Zia Park Derby

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Canterbury Park
Stachys, winner of the Dean Kutz Stakes at Canterbury Park, is the likely favorite in Saturday's Zia Park Derby.

Stachys has been lagging farther off the pace than usual in his last couple of races, but that could change Saturday when he starts as the probable favorite in the $150,000 Zia Park Derby.

Trainer Mike Biehler said there are a couple of reasons he is hopeful that Stachys will be a little closer to the action in the 1 1/16-mile race. Stachys will face eight others, including Saratoga Yankee, winner of back-to-back allowances over older horses at Remington Park, and Stephen’s Got Hope, a recent maiden special weight winner at Hollywood Park.

Stachys closed from last for third in the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby at Remington on Oct. 10, and the Beyer Speed Figure of 90 that he earned is the best last-race number in the Zia Derby. He is looking for his third stakes win, and Eddie Martin Jr., who rode him to victory in both the $75,000 Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs and the $35,000 Dean Kutz at Canterbury, will reunite with the horse Saturday.

“He’s gotten further back the last couple of times than I really would like him to be,” Biehler said of Stachys. “But the times that Eddie Martin has ridden him, he’s been closer. He’s also a little fresh right now – he hasn’t run in a while – so hopefully, he’ll lay a little closer.”

Biehler has spaced Stachys’s last few races to give the horse ample time to recover from a traveling schedule this past summer that included trips to two different tracks in Canada.

“We gave him time because of the hauling,” he said. “I think it did him some good. He’s put on some weight and he’s training better than he has all summer right now.”

Stachys, who races for Al and Bill Ulwelling, will break from post 9.

Saratoga Yankee returned from a more than six-month layoff in September and has won three of his last four starts.

“He’s kind of fulfilling the promise we thought he had,” said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Saratoga Yankee. “He had a lung problem at Oaklawn, and it took a while to get that cleared up, where he can run the way he can.”

Saratoga Yankee is a winner on dirt but has been racing on turf of late because it is the surface over which he has been able to get conditioned route races, Von Hemel said. Luis Quinonez has the mount Saturday.