11/22/2008 12:00AM

Stormin Normandy one to catch in Itaka


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Stormin Normandy, who has won at least one race on all four NYRA dirt tracks and earned over $300,000 as a 4-year-old, is the one to catch and beat as he shoots for his seventh victory of the year in Sunday's $65,000 Itaka Stakes.

The one-mile overnight stakes for New York-breds also attracted veteran multiple stakes winner Gold and Roses; Love Abroad and Dr. D.F.C., who ran third and fifth in last month's Empire Classic; the 3-year-olds Big Truck and Icabad Crane; and South Fourth St., who has won seven of his last eight starts at Finger Lakes and ships in after being claimed by trainer Gary Contessa.

Stormin Normandy comes off a wire-to-wire score in the Hudson Handicap on New York Showcase Day at Belmont, a race in which he finished first last year but was disqualified to second for drifting out. Though seven of his eight wins have been at seven furlongs or shorter, he did win at a mile on this track against open allowance company in the spring meet.

"I'm not really worried about the distance," said trainer Rick Dutrow. "He can get a mile."

Stormin Normandy breaks from the rail and carries 123 pounds under the allowance conditions. He is nominated to the six-furlong Fall Highweight Handicap on Thanksgiving Day, so it's interesting that he returned five days after his mile win to run second in a six-furlong allowance to Abraaj, subsequent winner of the Grade 2 A.G. Vanderbilt.

So, is Stormin Normandy truly eyeing the Fall Highweight?

"He has come back to run quickly," said Dutrow. "But he would have to look awfully live on Sunday. We would just have to wait and see."

With 41 starts and nearing age 7, Gold and Roses would surpass $900,000 in earnings if he nails down his first victory since the Hollie Hughes back in February. Though he chased Stormin Normandy unsuccessfully four times in sprints since last year's Hudson, DRF Formulator's lifetime past performances reveal he is 3 for 3 going a mile on Aqueduct's main track - though the wins came in 2005-06.

Big Truck, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby, and Icabad Crane, third in the Preakness, take on older rivals for the first time.

* A field of at least eight is taking shape for next Saturday's $300,000 Cigar Mile, the final Grade 1 race of the New York season. Expected starters include Arson Squad, Bribon, Harlem Rocker, Kodiak Kowboy, Storm Play, Tale of Ekati, Visionaire, and Wanderin Boy. Past the Point is a possible starter.