07/12/2001 12:00AM

Virginia Derby full and open

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Saturday's $200,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs has attracted a capacity field of 14 3-year-olds, with several standouts among the colts and geldings and one filly entered.

The Virginia Derby will be run over Colonial Downs's trademark turf course at 1 1/4 miles and shares the card with the $150,000 All Along Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares, also on the grass. Unlike the wide-open Virginia Derby, the All Along has a standout in its field, Colstar.

Potaro, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, is one of the main contenders in the Virginia Derby. A winner of his last two starts, including the Nick Shuk Memorial, Potaro hasn't raced beyond 1 1/8 miles.

Sheppard, who has horses at Delaware Park and on his Pennsylvania farm, has taken a training approach that he hopes aids Potaro in his quest to get the distance.

"After his last race, I took him back to my Pennsylvania farm, and gave him nice, long, slow breezes over the undulated turf to build stamina," Sheppard said. "Wednesday, I brought him back to Delaware and worked him five-eighths [in a bullet in 59.60 seconds] to give him speed.

"I don't think [Potaro] could go 1 1/4 miles over a yielding turf at Belmont, but Colonial is hard and fast in the summer," Sheppard added. "From what I've seen, horses like Potaro, who can be close to the pace, are well suited to Colonial."

Brent Bartram rides Potaro, who drew post 4.

Sheppard said he respects Unaccountedlea, a fast-closing second behind Potaro in the Nick Shuk on June 11. Unaccountedlea also won the Woodlawn in May at Pimlico on the turf.

Liberty Bell winner Moomtazz and Punkin Head, a close third in the Nick Shuk, are also contenders.

New York invader Berchtesgaden, a longshot, is the only member of the field to have run at and won at the distance.

Colstar standout in All Along

Colstar, less than $22,000 away from millionaire status, will be the favorite among the 13 fillies and mares entered in the 1 1/8-mile All Along.

Colstar could have chased a bigger pot in Saturday's $250,000 New York Handicap at Belmont Park, but her connections opted for the Grade 3 All Along, which drew a larger field but looks like the easier spot.

Paul Fout trains Colstar at his Middleburg, Va., farm.

"This is a two-hour trip, instead of six," explained Jim Jackson, Fout's assistant. "This will leave her with a little more gas in the tank for next time. Also, we're Virginians, and would like to win one of our big races."

Jon Court, who rode Colstar for the first time when she won the Grade 3 Locust Grove at Churchill on June 23, is back aboard.