08/16/2007 12:00AM

Villainage out to join local elite


MIAMI - Villainage, among the leaders of his division in south Florida at 2 last year, will attempt to vault into the upper echelon of this season's local 3-year-old crop with a victory Saturday in Calder's $50,000 American Dreamer Stakes. The one-mile race lured a field of 10.

Villainage spent much of his 2-year-old campaign futilely chasing the talented Straight Faced, running second to that one in both the Dr. Fager and Affirmed divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes.

Villainage, a homebred son of Trippi who is owned by Centaur Farms, won the B L's Sweep Stakes in his second start and showed some versatility by finishing second in the Arthur Appleton Turf Juvenile on the turf at 2.

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. gave Villainage an extended vacation following his 2-year-old campaign, and gelded the colt prior to his 3-year-old debut June 25.

Villainage returned and beat older horses by nearly five lengths despite an eventful trip in a one-mile second-level allowance race. In his only other start at 3, Villainage returned to the turf and again had a rough trip, finishing third in the Donthelumbertrader Stakes on July 14.

Pop Goes the Tiger and the vastly improved Notice Me Now figure to provide the toughest competition for Villainage.

Pop Goes the Tiger stretches out around two turns for the first time since winning a second-level allowance going a mile on June 3. In three subsequent outings, Pop Goes the Tiger finished fourth in both the Valid Video and Grade 2 Carry Back stakes before losing by a half-length to Fortunate Trail while facing older rivals for the first time earlier this month.

Notice Me Now ran off four consecutive victories from May 19 through July 5; the streak was snapped in a turf race two weeks ago.

James Wilfred adds blinkers in hopes of finding the couple of extra lengths he needs to compete with Pop Goes the Tiger and Notice Me Now. James Wilfred finished third, beaten less than three lengths by Pop Goes the Tiger on June 3, and finished nearly five lengths behind Notice Me Now when third in a second-level allowance five weeks later.