Desert Key, lead contender in the 6 ½-furlong contest, will be making only his fifth start in the Amsterdam for Centennial Farms. The son of E Dubai out of the Storm Cat mare, Storm Key, finished a well-beaten sixth in his debut at Gulfstream Park on March 5th before breaking his maiden next time out at Aqueduct.
His most recent start showed even more improvement. Desert Key took a first-level allowance race on the Belmont Stakes undercard by five lengths, leading all the way under jockey Edgar Prado and stopping the timer in a speedy 1:08 4/5 for six furlongs.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said Jerkens. “He showed a lot of talent in the morning. I thought his race before that was good, too. He got beat by a horse that was a very good two year-old.”
The colt’s last race became a key race on Wednesday’s Opening Day card at Saratoga when Acredit, who was second in that June 7 allowance race, came back to win an allowance of his own by better than four lengths in the slop.
Desert Key will have to deal with a lot of pressure up front if he wants the lead, but Jerkens doesn’t think his horse will mind conceding pacesetting duties in the early stages.
“He’s run good sitting off the pace,” Jerkens said. “I don’t think it will be a problem. He’s not terribly hard to rate. He’s hard to rate to a certain speed, but if there’s good speed in there, he can sit just off of them.”
Desert Key had his final workout for the Amsterdam on Friday morning on Saratoga’s muddy main track. He covered three furlongs in a lightning :33.81, more than two full seconds faster than the next horse who worked the same distance.
“It was a little faster than I wanted but it was okay,” said Jerkens.
Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel sends out another lightly raced speedster in Stronach Stables’ Fidelio. By Awesome Again, Fidelio has a record of three wins and a second from five career starts.
Notable races in the colt’s career include a second-place finish in ‘07 behind last year’s champion juvenile olt War Pass here at Saratoga and a 4 ½-length win last out at Belmont in a seven-furlong optional claimer.
Eaton’s Gift, winner of the Grade 2 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park looks like another horse who wants to be close to an already crowded pace. The brown colt by former juvenile champion Johannesburg is trained by Dale Romans for last season’s leading owner at Saratoga; Zayat Stables, LLC.
Like Jerkens, Romans is not concerned about how his horse will perform in a race with a lot of speed.
“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “He can rate and sit right off of horses. He proved that in his last race at Churchill. He can go to the lead or stalk -- whatever he needs to do.”
Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux will get a leg up from Romans. Through Friday, the Hall of Fame rider was one win away becoming the 23rd jockey in history to reach the 5,000-win plateau.
Kodiak Kowboy will return to the site of his Grade 2 off-the-pace win in the Saratoga Special last year as a two-year-old, but this time he will be running for a different trainer. He was transferred to Larry Jones after previous trainer Steve Asmussen and Vinery Stables parted ways.
The Saratoga Special was the final win in a five-race streak for Kodiak Cowboy in 2007. Since then he is 1-for-5 with a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Futurity and a third place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Kodiak Kowboy was last seen finishing second to Preakness runner-up and Jim Dandy participant Macho Again in the Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs on April 26th.
The field for Monday’s 16th running of the Grade 2 Amsterdam:
PP. HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY WGT.
1. Excess Capital Mark Hennig Javier Castellano 115
2. Devereux Steve Asmussen Shaun Bridgmohan 121
3. Desert Key Jimmy Jerkens Edgar Prado 115
4. Silver Edition D. Wayne Lukas Julien Leparoux 115
5. Kodiak Kowboy Larry Jones Gabe Saez 119
6. Fidelio Bobby Frankel John Velazquez 117
7. Eaton’s Gift Dale Romans Kent Desormeaux 123