02/05/2011 6:37PM

Toby's Corner wins third straight in Whirlaway

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Toby's Corner will likely make his next start in the Gotham at Aqueduct.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Toby’s Corner passed his two-turn and stakes debut with aplomb Saturday at Aqueduct and may have put himself on the Triple Crown trail with a two-length victory in the $100,000 Whirlaway Stakes over a muddy inner track.

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS:Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

It was the third straight victory for Toby’s Corner, a 3-year-old son of 2005 Wood Memorial winner and beaten Kentucky Derby favorite Bellamy Road after he finished third in his debut. His two previous wins came in one-turn mile races at Laurel Park.

J.J.’s Lucky Train, second in the Count Fleet Stakes here on New Year’s Day, again finished second after setting the pace under Jose Ferrer. It was 3 3/4 lengths back to Preachintothedevil in third. Arthur’s Tale and Rescind the Trade completed the order of finish. Sky Music was an early scratch. Norman Asbjornson acted up while in the starting gate and was scratched by the track veterinarian.

The win likely earned Toby’s Corner - based at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland - a return trip to Aqueduct on March 5 for the Grade 3, $250,000 Gotham Stakes which, like the Whirlaway, is run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track.

Under Eddie Castro, Toby’s Corner was last of five early on, only about four lengths behind J.J.’s Lucky Train who had to run a quarter mile in 23.53 seconds to secure the early lead. J.J.’s Lucky Train settled down while on the lead and ran uncontested through a half-mile in 48.80 seconds and six furlongs in 1:14.03.

Castro kept Toby’s Corner in the three-to-four path down the backside and waited until midway around the far turn to launch his bid into contention. Toby’s Corner came four wide turning for home, collared J.J.’s Lucky Train at the three sixteenths pole but had difficulty switching leads. He finally switched to his right lead at the sixteenth pole before drawing clear.

Toby’s Corner, owned and bred by Dianne Cotter, covered the 1 1/16 miles over a sealed muddy track in 1:45.66 and returned $11.60 as the fourth choice.

“I was really worried at the eighth pole, when he made the lead he got to gawking but when Eddie straightened him away I thought he did it nicely,” winning trainer Graham Motion said from Gulfstream Park where he saddled Smart Bid in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. “I really thought two turns was going to be the key to him.”

Castro said Motion told him to get the horse relaxed. “After that I moved a little to the outside and he had a nice kick,” Castro said.

Motion said he was inclined to point Toby’s Corner to the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, but it didn’t make sense to ship from Maryland to Florida to run against Uncle Mo. So, the Gotham is the colt’s likely next start.

William Anderson, trainer of J.J.’s Lucky Train, said he was happy with the way his horse ran and added that he would most likely come back for the Gotham.

“The track got to us a little today, but the other horse ran big,” Anderson said.

Belle Born: Spa City Princess holds on

Earlier on the card, Spa City Princess got away with soft early fractions under Jorge Chavez and then held off Eager Emma in the stretch to win the $60,000 Belle Born Stakes by one-half length. It was 6 1/2 lengths back to Laylayben in third.

Big Brownie, the even-money favorite, never lifted a hoof under Mike Luzzi and finished fifth of six, beaten 14 lengths.

Spa City Princess a daughter of Roaring Fever owned by Adam Madkour and trained by Pat Kelly, got away with fractions of 25.46 seconds, 50.97, 1:16.29 and covered one mile in 1:41.51 over a good inner track. She returned $15.40 as the fifth choice in the field of six.