John Oxley's Strong Contender, winner of the Super Derby (gr. II) in his last start, will skip the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. II) and will point for the Gulfstream Park meeting, with his main goal being the Donn Handicap (gr. I), trainer John Ward said Thursday.
"We're officially declaring him out of the Breeders' Cup," Ward said. "We've put our best foot forward and decided to point him for a 4-year-old campaign. We feel it's in the best interest of the horse to let him mature. We'll aim for the (Feb. 3) Donn Handicap, and possibly give him a prep in the (Jan. 6) Hal's Hope (gr. III)."
The Oxley-bred Strong Contender, a son of Maria's Mon
, has won four of his seven career starts, including the Super Derby and Dwyer Stakes (gr. II), and was third in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I), Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), and Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II).
Ward is also looking forward to big 4-year-old campaigns from Dr. Pleasure and Minister's Bid, both of whom are also owned by Oxley.
In the Super Derby, Strong Contender, put in a solid stretch run to wear down Lawyer Ron, covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48 3/5.
In other Classic news, Darley Stable's Bernardini turned in an easy five-furlong breeze in 1:04 3/5 at Belmont Park.
Prior to the work, trainer Tom Albertrani said he was looking to go easy with the son of A.P. Indy
. "He doesn't need much work," Albertrani said. "If he goes in 1:04 and change I'll be happy. He'll pobably have two more works after this one before leaving for Kentucky."
Edgar Prado is scheduled to work Woodward Stakes (gr. I) winner Premium Tap on Sunday. The son of Pleasant Tap
is a definite starter for the Classic, said co-owner Bud Kline.