07/04/2006 12:00AM

Strong Contender wins big

Adam Coglianese / NYRA
Strong Contender and Edgar Prado easily take Tuesday's Grade 2 Dwyer.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Strong Contender served notice that he might be a factor in the 3-year-old division during the second half of the year with a 7 3/4-length victory in Tuesday's Grade 2, $150,000 at Belmont Park.

Under Edgar Prado, Strong Contender rated in fourth position before moving through a huge opening on the inside at the half-mile pole. Strong Contender ran away from Da Stoops at the top of the stretch, and was geared down late. Doc Cheney rallied from last to be second, 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Da Stoops. Regent Spirit, Dontfearthereaper, and Keyed Entry, the 9-5 favorite, completed the order of finish.

Strong Contender, a son of Maria's Mon, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.24 - the slowest of 13 Dwyers run at this distance - over a fast track that had been hit by a thunderstorm with 30 minutes to post.

Strong Contender had been considered a Kentucky Derby prospect before he finished a well-beaten third in the Blue Grass. He entered the Dwyer off a third-place finish in the Peter Pan.

In the Dwyer, Keyed Entry broke inwardly under John Velazquez and was then rushed to the lead. He backed up after running a half-mile in 46.58 seconds. Velazquez had Keyed Entry in the four path, leaving a huge opening for Strong Contender, who was galloping along in fourth. Prado guided Strong Contender through that opening at the half-mile pole and he took control from there. Strong Contender returned $6.20 to win.

"It seemed like my horse was catching up, and he was covering so much ground I didn't want to take anything away from him," Prado said.

John Ward, who trains Strong Contender for John Oxley, said he liked the way Prado let Strong Contender take command of the race.

"Instead of letting other horses dictate the race, he went ahead and took charge of it and let this horse use his big, long stride," Ward said.

Ward plans to point Strong Contender, Ministers Bid, and Dr. Pleasure to the $1 million Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 26. Where they run beforehand will be decided later.

Tremont: 'Gwedda' overcomes stumble

Heavy favorite Out of Gwedda recovered from a severe stumble at the start to post a 2 1/4-length victory over Gonzo Bonzo Beans in the $101,200 for juvenile colts. Pride of Seattle was third, followed by Superstar Lebo.

The victory was one of four consecutive races won by trainer Todd Pletcher.

Out of Gwedda nearly went down in the second jump and was last early on. He raced willingly while three wide and took the lead at the five-sixteenths pole before drawing clear of Gonzo Bonzo Beans in upper stretch. Out of Gwedda, a son of Out of Place, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:06.66 and returned $2.40 to win.

Winning rider John Velazquez said he just let Out of Gwedda regroup after the stumble.

"I just left him alone till he got comfortable, and he started moving to them very comfortably," Velazquez said. "He responded to what I asked him to do."