A glance at the results from the past several years shows the importance and stature of the race; Ghostzapper showed his promise with a third-place finish in the ’03 edition before a Horse of the Year campaign the following year, Lost in the Fog won it in 2005 before being named Champion Sprinter, and last year, hard-knocking Hard Spun turned back in distance to capture an elusive and but well-deserved Grade 1 victory.
J Be K heads the field for Zayat Stables and trainer Steve Asmussen. Making his first start at Saratoga since being unveiled here last summer, J Be K won his debut by seven and a half lengths and set a new track record for five and a half furlongs of 1:03. J Be K was under the care of trainer Bob Baffert for his first start, but was transferred to Asmussen after that.
The son of Silver Deputy of out Major Wager, by Valid Wager has been on a tear since then with one setback - an eighth-place finish in his longest race, the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. In his last four starts, he has three graded stakes wins and one second, at the hands of top Travers contender Harlem Rocker in the Grade 3 Withers.
“He has trained really well and the King's Bishop is a good spot for him,” said Asmussen. “He set a track record before and he's definitely become a nice three-year-old.”
While J Be K has been dominant recently, he has never faced pace pressure like he may Saturday as the talented Desert Key also does his best running on the lead.
Asmussen recognizes the possibility of a speed duel.
“They (Desert Key and J Be K) might negate each other,” he said. “[But], they have earned their way here. You're not going to change who they are now that you got here.”