04/03/2009 11:00PM

Tale of Ekati goes for Big A trifecta

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Tale of Ekati was 8-1 in both the Wood Memorial and Cigar Mile - the Wood he won on his own, the Cigar with an assist from the stewards. His odds won't be nearly as generous when Tale of Ekati goes for a rare Aqueduct hat trick in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap.

The Carter, run at seven furlongs, may not be the marquee race on Saturday's 11-race Wood Memorial card, but it could be the best betting race of the day.

Tale of Ekati will try to join Congaree as the only horses to win this track's trio of Grade 1 events. Congaree won the Wood in 2001, the Cigar in '02-03 and the Carter in '03. Barclay Tagg, the trainer of Tale of Ekati, chose this race for his horse after believing he didn't handle the Gulfstream surface when he finished fourth in the Richter Scale on Feb. 14.

"He didn't seem to care for the track down at Gulfstream too much," Tagg said Thursday by phone from Keeneland. "He has won a couple of Grade 1's at Aqueduct. It'd be real nice for his resume to win Grade 1's at seven, eight and nine furlongs. He's doing really, really well. We're very pleased with the way he's training."

In a race loaded with speed, Tale of Ekati, a stalker, is drawn nicely in post 7 in the eight-horse field.

Directly to his outside is Kodiak Kowboy, who won the Grade 3 Sport Page at Belmont last fall before finishing fifth, beaten three lengths, in the Cigar Mile. While Tagg doesn't feel seven furlongs is Tale of Ekati's best distance, trainer Larry Jones believes it is optimum for Kodiak Kowboy, who will be ridden by John Velazquez

"The distance is going to suit Kodiak better than what the Cigar Mile did," Jones said from Oaklawn.

Kodiak Kowboy finished a troubled second in a stakes at Fair Grounds on March 14. Kodiak Kowboy is coupled in the wagering with Biker Boy as both are owned in part by Rick Porter. Biker Boy has won four consecutive races. Trained by Nick Zito, he will be making his stakes debut.

Both Tale of Ekati and Kodiak Kowboy should benefit from a lively pace that figures to include True Quality, Fabulous Strike, and Driven by Success. True Quality got away with a soft pace in the Grade 2 General George, defeating Fabulous Strike by 1 1/2 lengths.

Todd Beattie, trainer of Fabulous Strike, said True Quality won't get away so easily this time.

"We're going to make sure they aren't going to be walking on the front end this time," Beattie said. "We won't rely on someone else to do it this time. He likes to get out there and rumble a little bit. If there's someone walking on the lead, it'll be us."

True Quality, trained by John Campo Jr., took a ton of early pressure in the Paumonok Stakes, but still managed to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Breaking from post 2 under Chuck Lopez, True Quality could be the speed of the speed.

"You hope it's not as grueling as it was in the Paumonok, when they were coming at us from both sides for a little more than a half a mile. Nobody left him alone that day," Campo said.

Ah Day won the Grade 3 Toboggan by a head on Gotham Day. He finished third in the Carter in 2007. Understatement has won two allowance races over the inner track and has been training strongly leading to this.