Nashua Stakes winner Rockport Harbor returns in Remsen.

Nashua Stakes winner Rockport Harbor returns in Remsen.

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Curtain Call For East Coast 2-Year-Olds

Will "Rocky" score another knockout? Will The Grocer breeze through the express lane again? Those questions should be answered in the Nov. 27 Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct. The same day, at Churchill Downs, Iroquois (gr. III) winner Straight Line again will try to take the shortest way home in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II).

But all eyes will be on Rockport Harbor and Galloping Grocer, two of the most exciting young prospects seen this year. If anyone has any doubts about Rockport Harbor's ability, all they have to do is check out the results of Saturday's Laurel Futurity (gr. III). The two-length winner was the Shug McGaughey-trained Defer, whom Rockport Harbor had merely toyed with in the Nashua Stakes (gr. III), winning under wraps by 6 1/4 lengths.

And make no mistake, Defer is a serious horse for next year's classics. The son of Danzig has the pedigree, the looks, and the professionalism to go on and become a major star on the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) trail. To show how much McGaughey respects Rockport Harbor, who is known around the barn as Rocky, it's not every day you see him shipping a young horse to Pimlico off only 18 days rest when there is a more prestigious race in New York a week later.

One thing to remember about Defer, he is a late foal, being born on May 23. So, although he's behind the others in physical maturity, he has built a good foundation under him, which he'll need next spring.

While Defer was not ready to hook a horse as brilliant and dominating as Rockport Harbor in the Nashua, that might not be a problem for Galloping Grocer, who has been equally as brilliant and dominating. But all three of his starts have come in New York-bred company. This will be a big test for the son of A.P. Jet, whose average margin of victory is 10 lengths. And in the race in which he registered his biggest margin (12 1/2 lengths), he stumbled coming out of the gate. No one has a clue just how good this colt is, but we should find out on Saturday in what promises to be an exciting confrontation.

Two trainers who have several promising 2-year-olds in the barn are Todd Pletcher and Nick Zito, and they can afford to test such rough waters in the Remsen. Pletcher, whose Funk was beaten by Defer at Laurel, will send out the hard-knocking Fusaichi Pegasus colt, Killenaule, who has won four of eight starts already as a second-stringer stabled at Monmouth Park. He's been improving with every race, especially since being stretched out to two turns, and has joined Pletcher's main string at Belmont Park. Zito likely will send out Father Weist, a son of Pulpit who broke his maiden in a game effort at Belmont. A poor performance in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) was followed by a solid second-place finish behind the highly regarded Magna Graduate in a Keeneland allowance race.

Eddie Plesa Jr. will run Stormy Jim, who has shown marked improvement since being sent to New York following three dismal efforts at Calder. The son of High Yield has won his last two, including a mile allowance victory at Aqueduct last time out. In his previous race, he easily defeated Pavo, who came back to win big in a maiden race.

At Churchill, Straight Line is coming off a powerful performance in the Iroquois, which he won by five lengths. Third-place finisher Greater Good, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III), had an eventful trip and deserves another shot. Straight Line, who is trained and co-owned by 80-year-old Harvey Vanier, rebounded after a fourth-place finish in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity. The son of Boundary, has several solid stamina and grass influences in his female family. Vanier bought the colt for his wife, Nancy, at the Keeneland September yearling sale for a paltry $15,000.

One horse to watch in the Kentucky Jockey Club is Calder invader B.B. Best, a son of Yes It's True who has won four of six for Plesa, including victories in the In Reality and Dr. Fager divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes. And then there is the aforementioned Magna Graduate, who should continue to improve as the distances stretch out. Others with credentials are Storm Surge, Pavo, and Social Probation. Nick Zito will be represented by either Chief Commander or Highgrove, fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Iroquois, or he may again run both.

Following are several other newcomers to keep an eye on who were not mentioned in the last column:

Rush Bay -- This son of Cozzene could be a live one, breaking his maiden by 6 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs. This was the race in which the heavy favorite, stakes-placed Patriot Act, finished fifth. Cozzene is one of the most underrated sires in the country, and the colt's female family has a good blend of brilliance and stamina. He is a total outcross, tracing to several of the most influential sire lines. Trained by Tom Amoss, who also has the promising Cherokee Path.

Don't Get Mad -- Trained by Paul McGee, the son of Stephen Got Even won his only start, coming from 10th in a six-furlong race at Churchill to win by six lengths after making a powerful move on the turn. A $350,000 2-year-old purchase, he's by an exciting young stallion prospect, from an all-Fred Hooper tail-female family.

Silverado Trail -- Silver Charm colt trained by Dallas Stewart, he won his second start with a big stretch run to just get up by a nose going a mile in the slop. Very strong female family, with granddam being by Alleged out of a Nijinsky II mare. Third dam, Summertime Promise, is a graded stakes winner and earner of over $340,000.

Carson's Bridge -- Richard Dutrow first-timer won by six in 1:10 3/5 at Aqueduct, but pedigree says he's more likely to be best at shorter distances. By Carson City, out of a Phone Trick mare.