08/09/2008 12:00AM

Tizdejavu figures to be out front in Secretariat


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - As soon as they peek at the past performances for the Secretariat Stakes, skeptics will start trying to poke holes in the form of Tizdejavu. So what if he has never lost a turf race, has in fact never been anywhere but in front on grass? So what if he appears to be the controlling speed of the Secretariat and if the field as a whole does not look especially deep? Tizdejavu, contrarians will point out, didn't run especially fast winning the American Derby here July 12 and beat only five rivals while getting away with murder on the lead.

Unsurprisingly, trainer Greg Fox has a much more positive take on both the American Derby and Tizdejavu's chances Saturday at Arlington, where he figures to be heavily favored to win the Secretariat, the first of three Grade 1 turf races on the card.

"He ran as well as he needed to win last time," said Fox, who finds himself in good position to win his first Grade 1 race. "Frankly, all the speed figures and evaluations didn't put a whole lot of value in it, but he won, he came out of very well, and you don't want to kill yourself in every race."

Tizdejavu has eight opponents in the Secretariat, which offers a $400,000 purse and will be contested over 1 1/4 miles. The Virginia Derby less than three weeks ago skimmed the cream off the 3-year-old turf-horse crop, with none of the top-three finishers there - Gio Ponti, Court Vision, or Sailor's Cap - coming to Chicago. Your Round, the fourth-place horse, will attempt the quick turnaround and looks like one of a few horses with a chance to beat the favorite. Your Round raced on Polytrack and dirt his first three starts this year, but looks like a superior grass horse.

The anti-Tizdejavu contingent will probably make Irish-shipper Plan the second choice. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, who won this race in 2000 with Ciro, Plan won a maiden race in two starts at 2 and comes into the Secretariat off a career-best performance, a win over older horses in the Grade 3 International Stakes last month at the Curragh.

"We think he's progressing nicely," said Pat Keating, the O'Brien assistant who regularly travels to Chicago.

Plan has not raced beyond nine furlongs, but Winchester, another Ireland-based colt, has two 10-furlong races and two others at 12 furlongs. Winchester began his 3-year-old season promisingly for trainer Dermot Weld, but finished seventh and eighth in a pair of Group 2 races this summer. Winchester races for the first time Saturday with Lasix and blinkers.

Trainer Mike Stidham has two for the race: Sr. Henry, second to Tizdejavu in the American Derby, and Secret Getaway, winner of consecutive stakes - one on Polytrack and the more recent on turf - at Woodbine.

"He'll run all day," Stidham said of Secret Getaway. "He's kind of a grinder, but he does have enough speed to keep himself in a decent spot. It's all going to come down to how slow they try to back Tizdejavu up."

Pace tactics on Tizdejavu will be left to Garrett Gomez, who rode Tizdejavu to victory in the American Turf and the Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs and is back aboard after Rene Douglas rode the American Derby.

"I'm looking forward to the race," Fox said. "But it's a Grade 1. What more can you say? There are no easy ones, but I'm very confident in my horse."