After a second-place finish in the one-mile Withers (gr. III) in his last start April 26 at Aqueduct, trainer Steve Asmussen shortens J Be K back to seven-eighths, the distance of the April 5 Bay Shore (gr. III), which the Silver Deputy colt won in speedy fashion by five lengths over the same track.
Garrett Gomez, who was aboard the Zayat Stables dark bay in both the Withers and the Bay Shore, climbs aboard the 3-1 second choice again. J Be K, a winner of three of five lifetime starts, will carry high weight of 123 pounds.
J Be K set fast middle fractions (:46 2/5, 1:09 2/5) in the Withers as the 7-10 favorite before giving way to Harlem Rocker, who finished 2 1/2 lengths ahead. Chances are J Be K have a little more company on the front end this time, with True Quality gunning from the rail in the field of nine. Others, such as Groomedforvictory, Fatal Bullet and Ling Ling Qi also figure to ensure an honest pace. That could set things up for a stalker such as Ready's Image, Silver Edition or the slumping Majestic Warrior.
James Scatuorchio's Ready's Image was a leading 2-year-old, winning Saratoga's Sanford (gr. II) and finishing second in the Hopeful (gr. I) to Majestic Warrior last summer for trainer Todd Pletcher. After running last of eight, 28 lengths behind the victorious War Pass at Belmont Park's Champagne (gr. I) in October, the More than Ready colt received a seven-month break. Ready's Image made his 2008 bow in the 6 1/2-furlong Adjudicating Stakes May 14, bobbling at the break but winning by three-quarters of a length as the 4-5 choice in a field of five.
Ready's Image, the 2-1 favorite on the morning line, has won four of seven starts and leads the field in earnings with $305,292. He'll be ridden once again by John Velazquez.
Silver Edition, owned by Thomas Van Meter II and the Maloof brothers, comes off a tough luck neck defeat to Lantana Mob in the Hirsch Jacobs (gr. III) and it took a Pimlico track record of 1:09.10 for six furlongs to beat him. After flirting with the Triple Crown trail for trainer D. Wayne Lukas this winter, Silver Edition seems most comfortable as a late-running sprinter. The son of Silver Deputy snapped an eight-race losing streak with a smart 4 1/2-length victory in a six-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs prior to his effort in the Jacobs.
Ramon Dominguez rides Silver Edition for the first time.
Hopeful winner Majestic Warrior has not made the same impact this season for Bill Mott. Off for more than seven months after finishing sixth as the even-money favorite in the Champagne, the A.P. Indy colt ran seventh in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) in March and sixth in the Florida Derby (gr. I) thee weeks later. In his last start, the Kinsman Farm homebred was fourth in the Derby Trial. The shorter distance here figures to help. Kent Desormeaux rides for the first time.
Groomedforvictory, a Victory Gallop gelding, broke his maiden for Barclay Tagg two starts back and won the Screenland Stakes for New York breds May 7 as the 7-10 choice. Woodbine invader Fatal Bullet has won three in a row for conditioner Reade Baker -- his last by six lengths over second-level allowance foes at six furlongs on Polytrack -- and takes a big step here.
$250,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:56 p.m.), 3-Year-olds, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. True Quality (KY), Cornelio H. Velasquez, 117, 12/1
2. Ready's Image (MD), John R. Velazquez, 121, 2/1
3. Silver Edition (KY), Ramon A. Dominguez, 119, 5/1
4. Groomedforvictory (NY), Javier Castellano, 119, 8/1
5. J Be K (KY), Garrett K. Gomez, 123, 3/1
6. Fatal Bullet (FL), Edgar S. Prado, 119, 8/1
7. Ling Ling Qi (KY), Robby Albarado, 117, 15/1
8. Run With Me (FL), Alan Garcia, 117, 30/1
9. Majestic Warrior (KY), Kent J. Desormeaux, 121, 12/1