04/03/2007 12:00AM

Summer Doldrums ready to step up


LAS VEGAS - Of the three major preps this weekend for the Kentucky Derby - the Wood Memorial Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Illinois Derby - the Wood Memorial stands out because of the presence of Circular Quay and Nobiz Like Shobiz. But another colt could steal the limelight and mix up the Derby picture.

Summer Doldrums is by Street Cry, one of today's hottest rising young stallions and the sire of Street Sense, last year's 2-year-old champion colt and winner of the Tampa Bay Derby. Last Saturday, Street Magician, another colt from Street Cry's initial crop, won the Aventura Stakes following a romping victory in a maiden race.

Summer Doldrums, who is also considered a slight possibility for the Illinois Derby, will be overlooked in the Wood because of Louisiana Derby winner Circular Quay and Nobiz Like Shobiz. While Street Sense scurried up the golden rail to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile by daylight, Circular Quay had a deceptively strong runner-up finish. Steadied and pinched at the break, he looked hopelessly out of the race but rallied past 12 other colts to clearly secure second place, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Great Hunter, with last weekend's Florida Derby winner, Scat Daddy, another 2 3/4 lengths back in fourth.

The Juvenile, at 1 1/16 miles, should be looked at as a key effort for Circular Quay because it showed he could overcome a bulky field, which he is likely to encounter in the Derby. This is a colt who will relish 1 1/4 miles, and his strong, late rally will be deadly at Churchill Downs. He has already shown an affinity for that track, winning his first two starts there - a maiden race and the Bashford Manor Stakes. By stamina influence Thunder Gulch, and out of Spinaway Stakes winner Circle of Life, Circular Quay will be a major player in Louisville.

Nobiz Like Shobiz could repair his tarnished image after a disappointing third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. A big, imposing racehorse, he won the Remsen Stakes last year at the Wood's distance over the same Aqueduct surface and was on everyone's short list for the Derby. By multiple stakes winner Albert the Great (a son of 1994 Derby winner Go for Gin), he is also bred for the Derby. Female family inbreeding to the mare Swoon's Tune has resulted in a special animal. Inbreeding to a superior female within five generations through different individuals (in this case Swoon's Tune's daughters Song Sparrow and Lilt) creates the Rasmussen Factor (RF), a powerful pedigree pattern that is found in less than approximately 10 percent of the entire Thoroughbred population.

Summer Doldrums is also an RF, as he is inbred to Natalma through her daughter Raise the Standard and son Northern Dancer. Summer Doldrums won the Whirlaway Stakes and then finished third in the Gotham. It was widely reported that trainer Rick Violette undertrained him for the Gotham because of his seemingly big effort in the Whirlaway. With Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry on top and Unaccounted For on the bottom, Summer Doldrums should have no problem at 1 1/4 miles, and a good effort in the Wood will squarely put him in the Derby picture.

Another longshot with a future is the promising Reptilian Smarts. By Include, a son of Broad Brush who got better with age and distance, he is out of a Shadeed (Nijinsky II) mare from an exceptionally classy female family. His second dam is by Triple Crown winner Affirmed, and his third dam, Straight Deal, was a champion older mare who descends directly from the influential La Troienne.

Picks: Summer Doldrums, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Circular Quay

Illinois Derby

Another colt who is somewhat under the radar is Cowtown Cat, winner of the Gotham Stakes. With only $21,334 in graded stakes earnings, a victory in the Illinois Derby would not only stamp him as a legitimate Derby contender, but also ensure a berth because of its rich purse.

Cowtown Cat, yet another RF because he is inbred to Pocahontas through her two best offspring, Tom Rolfe and Chieftain, is by Distorted Humor, also the sire of the highly regarded Any Given Saturday. Distorted Humor sired a Kentucky Derby winner in his first crop - Funny Cide, who won in 2003.

Santa Anita Derby

Despite a tantalizing purse of $750,000, the weakest of this weekend's Derby preps is the Santa Anita Derby. A wide-open affair that should be competitive and entertaining, it lacks any of the top 3-year-olds.

Liquidity, second in the Sham Stakes, has not proven that he is comfortable with nine furlongs, and the Derby distance may be too far.

Bwana Bull, winner of the California Derby and El Camino Real Derby, is by Holy Bull, a speed influence who sired Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo.

Tiago, a half-brother to Giacomo, needs a strong effort to send him to Louisville. He is even better bred for 1 1/4 miles, as he is by Pleasant Tap (the sire of Premium Tap, who finished a strong second to Invasor in the Dubai World Cup last weekend).

Sam P. is definitely bred for long-distance marathons. He is by Breeders' Cup Classic winner Cat Thief, who was third in the Kentucky Derby, and is out of an Affirmed mare.

Level Red, by Kentucky Derby runner-up Aptitude (sire of Steppenwolfer in his first crop) and out of a Strawberry Road mare, is a colt who should only get better with maturity and distance.

King of the Roxy, a talented sprinter/miler who won the Hutcheson Stakes and last year's Futurity Stakes, is ill-equipped to handle nine furlongs, let alone the Kentucky Derby distance. He is by Littleexpectations (a full brother to speed influence Valid Expectations) out of a Bold Forbes mare, giving him an SPx2 (speed top and bottom) pedigree.

Picks: Sam P., Tiago, Bwana Bull, Level Red