04/20/2008 11:00PM

Withers field shaping up compact


OZONE PARK, N.Y. -The allure of the Triple Crown trail and the presence of J Be K have conspired to keep the field for Saturday's $150,000 Withers quite small. Though 40 3-year-olds were nominated to the Grade 3 Withers, Aqueduct's racing office may be scrambling to come up with a five- or six-horse field by Thursday's entry time.

Over the weekend, the track's stakes coordinator, Andrew Byrnes, said the three definite runners for the one-mile race were J Be K, Harlem Rocker, and Double or Nothing. Giant Moon and Face the Cat were possible. Nick Zito could possibly run one of the eight he has nominated.

J Be K figures to go favored off an authoritative five-length victory in the Bay Shore Stakes over Aqueduct's main track on April 5. That win kept him 3 for 3 around one turn and was a successful rebound from an eighth-place finish the Louisiana Derby around two turns.

J Be K completed preparations for the Withers on Monday when he worked an easy half-mile in 50.20 seconds over the Belmont training track.

"He's doing well, he hasn't missed a beat," said Toby Sheets, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "The one-turn mile is like a long sprint, and I don't think that's going to affect him too much.''

Garrett Gomez, aboard for the Bay Shore victory, will be in New York to ride J Be K again.

Harlem Rocker, who is 2 for 2 for trainer Todd Pletcher, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 Sunday at Gulfstream Park. Double or Nothing, who won the Private Terms at Laurel last month, worked five furlongs in 1:03.29 Monday morning at Aqueduct.

Lieutenant Ron likely to pass

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said as of Monday he is not planning to run his talented 3-year-old Lieutenant Ron in the Withers, but he didn't close the door completely on the idea.

On Saturday, Lieutenant Ron worked a bullet four furlongs in 47.17 seconds over Belmont's main track. But on Monday, after speaking with the owners, McLaughlin said Lieutenant Ron is likely to run in the Barbaro Stakes at Pimlico on May 17 with a secondary option being the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 10.

"We worked him for it in case we changed our minds," McLaughlin said Monday in reference to the Withers. "As of [Sunday] we weren't running, but today's a new day."

Lieutenant Ron is 2 for 2, winning a maiden race by 8 1/4 lengths last November at Aqueduct and a first-level allowance by 3 1/2 lengths on April 6.

"He almost does everything too well," McLaughlin said. "We just got to keep him together, but yeah, he worked great."

McLaughlin said Keep Laughing, who won the Lafayette at Keeneland last out, will soon ship to New York. He will run in the Peter Pan or the Barbaro, whichever spot Lieutenant Ron does not go.

Mott runners return

A shipment of Bill Mott-trained horses arrived back in New York over the weekend, and the Hall of Fame trainer is pointing two of them to turf stakes scheduled for the weekend.

Sweet Ransom, who finished in a dead heat for second with Pretoria Light behind Rutherienne in the Grade 3 Frances Genter Handicap at Calder in December, is pointing to Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Beaugay Handicap. On Sunday, Mott plans to run the 8-year-old Silver Tree in the Grade 3, $100,000 Fort Marcy.

Following the Genter, Sweet Ransom got some downtime at owner Charlotte Weber's farm before rejoining Mott in February.

"She's been training very well since she came back," said Leana Willaford, Mott's New York assistant. The 1 1/16 miles of the Beaugay, said Willaford, "may be a stretch for her, but we've won this race with a couple we thought that way about."

Mott won the Beaugay in 2006 with Pommes Frites and in 2003 with Delta Princess.

Silver Tree remains a model of consistency for Mott and owner Peter Vegso. He has 12 wins and 9 seconds from 37 lifetime starts and has earned more than $1.5 million.

Silver Tree has raced over turf courses at 17 tracks, but the Fort Marcy will be the first time he will have run at Aqueduct.

"He's got game," Willaford said. "He looks and he's training really well."

* Bustin Stones, the undefeated New York-bred who won the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in his last start, worked four furlongs in 51.30 seconds on Monday morning over the Belmont training track. He is pointing to the Metropolitan Handicap on May 26.