Updated on 09/17/2011 11:34PM

Tougher horses will test 'Achilles'

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Achilles of Troy faces tough test at Aqueduct on Saturday in the Gotham Stakes.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Ernie Paragallo didn't have to take Achilles of Troy out of town to find the tougher competition he was seeking for his talented 3-year-old colt. With stakes winners Keyed Entry and Sweetnorthernsaint shipping into Aqueduct for Saturday's $200,000 , Achilles of Troy faces his sternest test to date as he seeks to remain a viable Kentucky Derby candidate.

Of course, Paragallo - who officially is the authorized agent for his family-run Paraneck Stable - already believes Achilles of Troy is one of the top 3-year-olds in the country, based on his authoritative wins against unheralded rivals in the Count Fleet and Whirlaway.

"I already know what I have; he doesn't have to prove anything to me," said Paragallo, who has started four horses in the Kentucky Derby. "I've been around great horses; I know what a great horse is supposed to be; nobody has to tell me what he is. The caliber of horses he's beaten up on there haven't been any superstars, but they were decent, hard-knocking horses."

Paragallo's fears about drawing too far outside were allayed when Achilles of Troy drew post 6 in the 11-horse field. The Grade 3 Gotham, run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track, is the ninth race on a 10-race card that also includes the Grade 3 Cicada Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Achilles of Troy is 3 for 3 since going on Lasix, and his victory in the Whirlaway was even more professional than his 14-length romp in the Count Fleet. His new trainer, Frank Amonte Jr., said he believes the horse has improved since the Whirlaway.

"He's sharp as hell," said Amonte, who was elevated from assistant to head trainer by Paragallo one week ago.

In addition to having a home-field advantage over Keyed Entry and Sweetnorthernsaint, Achilles of Troy is the only one of the three who has raced around two turns.

Keyed Entry, trained by Todd Pletcher, is 3 for 3, including a victory over First Samurai in the Grade 2 Hutcheson, run at 7 1/2 furlongs at Gulfstream.

"What this race will tell us is if we have the potential to stretch him out to a mile and an eighth or a mile and a quarter against the very best," Pletcher said. "I would be surprised if he didn't run well at a mile and a sixteenth. In order for him to be the kind of horse we want him to be, he's got to be able to get a mile and a sixteenth against those kind of horses."

Keyed Entry, who drew post 7, figures to be the pacesetter under Edgar Prado. The Gotham has other speed types such as Sweetnorthernsaint, Like Now, and One Way Flight.

Sweetnorthernsaint, the Maryland-based gelding, drew post 10. He has enough gate speed to get position, and trainer Michael Trombetta said he doesn't believe his horse is a need-the-lead type. Kent Desormeaux, who will soon be riding in New York full time, has the call on Sweetnorthernsaint.

"We all have to see what his style is going to be against better horses," Trombetta said.

The two most intriguing candidates beyond the top three are Sunshine Alpine and Greeley's Legacy. Sunshine Alpine is a strapping colt with a long stride who should appreciate two turns. Greeley's Legacy seems to be an improving sort and has already won twice around two turns.

The field

Gotham Stakes
Purse: $200,000; 1 1/16 miles; Grade 3

1HesanoldsaltN. Arroyo Jr.11620-1
2Church ServiceM. Luzzi11630-1
3Eagle HeadS. Chavez11630-1
4Like NowF. Jara11610-1
5PutonyerdancinshuzH. Rivera11630-1
6Achilles of TroyR. Dominguez1202-1
7Keyed EntryE. Prado1209-5
8Sunshine AlpineR. Migliore11615-1
9Greeley's LegacyE. Coa11620-1
10SweetnorthernsaintK. Desormeaux1163-1
11One Way FlightC. Hill11620-1

* Odds by Michael Hammersly
* Television: Saturday, 6 p.m. (Eastern), ESPN