03/05/2007 12:00AM

War of worlds coming up next

Charles Pravata/Horsephotos
Great Hunter earned a 101 Beyer for his victory in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita on Saturday.

NEW ORLEANS - In California, it's Doug O'Neill's world, and everyone else is just living in it. In Florida, it's Todd Pletcher's world, and everyone else is just living in it. Both trainers dominated stakes over the weekend, including the significant Kentucky Derby prep races, the Fountain of Youth Stakes, Hutcheson Stakes, and Robert B. Lewis Stakes. And this Saturday, here at Fair Grounds, worlds will collide.

O'Neill, who sent out Great Hunter to victory in the Lewis at Santa Anita in the colt's 3-year-old debut, now has four of the leading 3-year-olds in the country. He is sending Liquidity here for the Grade 2, $600,000 Louisiana Derby on Saturday. Pletcher, who won the Fountain of Youth with Scat Daddy and the Hutcheson with King of the Roxy at Gulfstream Park, will try to win the Louisiana Derby with Circular Quay, the morning-line favorite, and Soaring By.

Great Hunter got a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 in the Lewis, 6 points higher than the figure recorded by Scat Daddy in the Fountain of Youth. King of the Roxy got a 103, but his race was around one turn.

The Fountain of Youth may have been the most significant race of the weekend for several reasons. Scat Daddy proved he could win going two turns, and Nobiz Like Shobiz, the race favorite and favorite for the May 5 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, was a disappointing third. Scat Daddy has now beaten Nobiz Like Shobiz twice in three meetings.

Pletcher said Scat Daddy would remain at Gulfstream for the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on March 31, but he will need a new rider that day, as John Velazquez will be in Dubai for the World Cup card.

"He proved he could win going a mile and one-eighth around two turns," Pletcher said. "This puts us right on course for what we came down here for, which is the Florida Derby."

Nobiz Like Shobiz, according to trainer Barclay Tagg, likely will head to New York for the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7, and will wear blinkers next time, Tagg said.

"He blew the first turn," Tagg said. "Coming into the stretch he kept getting in. Every time [jockey Cornelio Velasquez] straightened him out, he lost another half-length or length.

"I can't understand why he hasn't gotten over this. I think he's just shying from the crowd. I don't know what else it could be. He doesn't do it in the morning, he doesn't do it anywhere else in the race except when he's coming down the stretch."

Adore the Gold, fourth in the Fountain of Youth, will come back in the Florida Derby, trainer Michael Gorham said.

Stormello, who was narrowly beaten when second in the Fountain of Youth in his first start of the year, has several options for his next start, including the Florida Derby and the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7, according to Bill Currin, who trains and co-owns Stormello.

If Stormello runs at Santa Anita, he would face King of the Roxy, who is headed west, Pletcher said Monday after conferring with Barry Irwin, the head of the Team Valor syndicate, which owns King of the Roxy. Irwin weeks ago had said King of the Roxy would be kept around one turn and would not point for the Derby, but the Hutcheson result changed his mind.

Pletcher also saw Deadly Dealer and Sam P. run themselves into Derby consideration with their performances on Saturday. Deadly Dealer got a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 for his allowance sprint win at Gulfstream. He has zero graded stakes earnings - the criteria used by Churchill Downs if more than the maximum of 20 horses enter the Derby - and will get one shot to earn his way into the Derby. Pletcher said he was looking at races on April 7 and 14, but had not picked out anything specific. The Wood and the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 14 seem like the best possibilities, considering where Pletcher has other 3-year-olds currently pointed.

Sam P., second to Great Hunter in the Lewis, will likely make his next start in the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 7, Pletcher said. Pletcher said he was thinking about putting blinkers on Sam P. "to keep him more focused."

Great Hunter certainly was focused in the Lewis, despite being off for four months. He won comfortably and seemed to have plenty in reserve when he crossed the wire.

"He came out of it in great shape," O'Neill said by telephone from California on Monday morning. "What I really liked was his gallop-out."

O'Neill said his brother, Dennis, emphasized to jockey Corey Nakatani before the race to have Great Hunter gallop out strongly, being as the Lewis was the first of just two preps Great Hunter will have before the Derby.

"Corey put that extra blow into him," O'Neill said.

Great Hunter will have his final Derby prep at Keeneland in the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes on April 14, O'Neill said. Great Hunter won the Breeders' Futurity over Keeneland's Polytrack surface last fall before his third-place finish at Churchill Downs in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"We'll head to Keeneland with him about two weeks before the race," O'Neill said.

* Eclipse Award winner Street Sense worked a half-mile in 47 at Palm Meadows on Sunday morning as he moves closer to his 3-year-old debut.

"This was just an easy work to set him up for something more serious later in the week," trainer Carl Nafzger said.

Nafzger again said Monday that the Tampa Bay Derby on March 17 is the most likely spot for Street Sense's return.

"If I were a betting man I'd say his first start will be at Tampa," said Nafzger.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch