02/06/2015 11:59AM

Three Sixteen is the one to catch in Oregon Derby

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Reed Palmer Photography
Kozzys Kitkat (left) wins a maiden race in October at Portland Meadows.

Three Sixteen drew the inside post and was listed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Sunday’s one-mile, $20,000 Oregon Derby at Portland Meadows. Kozzys Kitkat, a stakes-winning filly, is the other leading contender in the field of seven statebred 3-year-olds.

In his most recent start, and his first attempt around two turns, Three Sixteen set the pace in the unrestricted Columbia River Stakes before fading to finish third, 7 1/2 lengths behind the winner. He’s a logical candidate to move forward while facing softer competition in the Oregon Derby.

How soft? Oregon produced just 77 registered foals in 2012, according to The Jockey Club, and two of the Derby entrants, maidens Funny Stone and Money Storm, have virtually no reasonable chance to win the race.

Among the seven entrants, three are by Grindstone, the winner of the 1996 Kentucky Derby, who stands at Oakhurst Thoroughbreds in Newberg, Ore. Two are by Parker’s Storm Cat, who stands in Washington. Another, the maiden Plums Waterboy, is the only active runner by the obscure stallion Salt Water.

:: OREGON DERBY: Get PPs, watch Saturday’s Portland Meadows card live

The final entrant, Three Sixteen, is part of the first crop sired by Sixthirteen, a speedy son of Dixie Union who stands at Bar C Racing Stables in Hermiston, Ore.

The Oregon Derby story line is simple: Can anyone catch Three Sixteen?

KEY CONTENDERS

Three Sixteen (Last 3 Beyers: 35-54-29)

◗ The Debora Fergason trainee dominated a five-furlong maiden race in January after leading the field through a 21.99-second first quarter. He can grab an easy lead if he breaks alertly under regular pilot Matt Hagerty.

Kozzys Kitkat (Last 3 Beyers: 32-47-47)

◗ Kozzys Kitkat is the only stakes winner in the field. She captured the restricted Janet Wineberg Stakes for statebred fillies in December but finished last in her most recent start against males in the Columbia River on Jan. 25.

◗ Her tracking running style should leave Kozzys Kitkat within easy striking range of Three Sixteen. If the likely favorite hits the brakes, Kozzys Kitkat can spring a mild upset.

Fearless Felix (Beyers: 20-10)

◗ Outrun in his November debut, Fearless Felix returned from a nearly three-month layoff to crush statebred maidens by seven lengths in his second start. But his final time – six furlongs in 1:13.88 – was nothing special, and Fearless Felix needed 13.94 seconds to cover the final furlong.