High Cotton and Strong Contender, 3-year-olds with Triple Crown potential and high profile connections, make their first start of the year at Gulfstream Park in Wednesday's one-mile allowance feature. John Velazquez rides Peachtree Stable's High Cotton for trainer Todd Pletcher in the colt's first start since finishing second to Private Vow in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in late November. The son of Dixie Union just missed when second by a neck in the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill in his previous effort.John Oxley's Strong Contender was very impressive winning his only start at Arlington Park in August by 3 ¾ lengths as the favorite. Trained by John Ward, Strong Contender was purchased for $800,000 at Keeneland's 2-year-old sale. The chestnut is by Maria's Mon, sire of Monarchos, winner of the 2001 Florida Derby (gr. I) and Kentucky Derby (gr. I) for Oxley and Ward. Edgar Prado rides Strong Contender.
Wednesday's race brings out other potential standouts in the full field of 12, including Mike McCarty's Storm Treasure with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard and Roll Z Dice Stable's Roamin Murphy, to be ridden by Mike Smith.Storm Treasure makes his first start since breaking his maiden going a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs by 7 ¼ lengths Nov. 6. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the $170,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by Storm Boot finished second in his first two starts at Saratoga and Keeneland.Roamin Murphy has run only once, but made a big impression when he romped home a 6 ¾-length winner at Gulfstream Jan. 28. Roamin Murphy is a $125,000 Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old purchase by Grindstone. Tim Ritchey, who took Afleet Alex down the Triple Crown trail last spring, trains him.