Dwyer a chance to regain some lost luster

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Sixty days before the Kentucky Derby, Nobiz Like Shobiz and Any Given Saturday were regarded as two of the better 3-year-olds in training. Sixty days after the Kentucky Derby, both are trying to regain their standing within the division.

The first opportunity toward doing that comes Wednesday when Nobiz Like Shobiz and Any Given Saturday meet for the third time in the Grade 2, $150,000 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park. The Dwyer, the unofficial start to the second half of the 3-year-old season, shares billing on Wednesday's Fourth of July card with the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap for sprinters.

Six 3-year-olds were entered for the Dwyer, but trainer Bobby Frankel on Monday said he would most likely scratch First Defence in favor of the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 14.

That figures to shorten the odds on Nobiz Like Shobiz, the probable favorite. Nobiz Like Shobiz beat Any Given Saturday and Sightseeing - another Dwyer participant - in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 7. Nobiz Like Shobiz was sent off at 10-1 in the Kentucky Derby, and after racing in good position until the quarter pole, he faded in the stretch to finish 10th, beaten 14 3/4 lengths.

"The track was drying out that day and I don't think he liked that at all," said Barclay Tagg, who trains Nobiz Like Shobiz for owner-breeder Elizabeth Valando. "He galloped over it when it was three feet of mud the day before and he acted like he loved it, then it was really drying out by the time it got to the race and the jock said he couldn't handle it at all."

After putting blinkers on Nobiz Like Shobiz prior to the Wood Memorial, Tagg decided shortly after the Derby to take them off. The colt has been training sans blinkers for the last two months. Jockey Cornelio Velasquez has breezed the horse six times since the Derby and says he feels a difference.

"He's a different horse now, he's [much] better now, he's more relaxed now," Velasquez said. "I think Wednesday is going to be an easy race.''

The one-turn 1 1/16 miles would certainly seem to suit Nobiz Like Shobiz, whose sire, Albert the Great, won this race in 2000. Nobiz Like Shobiz won his maiden going a one-turn mile at Belmont last September and he won the Grade 3 Holy Bull, also a one-turn mile at Gulfstream, to kick off his 3-year-old season.

Nobiz Like Shobiz, the 123-pound highweight, breaks from post 2.

Any Given Saturday, a $1.1 million son of Distorted Humor, began his 3-year-old campaign by winning the Sam F. Davis at Tampa. He then dropped a nose decision to Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby before finishing third behind Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Wood. He appeared to be having a decent trip in the Kentucky Derby before fading in the final furlong, finishing eighth, 10 1/2 lengths behind Street Sense. He was found to have a bruised foot two days after the Derby.

"Basically at the eighth pole he was still in the picture at the Derby," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "It was really the last eighth of a mile that he flattened out. I don't know if he's a better mile-and-a-sixteenth to a mile-and-an-eighth horse or maybe the foot issue came into play at the end of the Derby."

Pletcher said he is very pleased with how Any Given Saturday is training leading up to this race. Garrett Gomez rides Any Given Saturday from the outside post.

Sightseeing came within a half-length of Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Wood, but his connections opted to skip the Triple Crown series to let the colt mature. Trainer Shug McGaughey is hopeful that by giving Sightseeing time to develop he will be ready to tackle the division's best this summer at Saratoga.

McGaughey is adding blinkers to Sightseeing's equipment on Wednesday, hoping for a more professional finish than the horse gave in the Peter Pan, when he just got up in the final jump.

"It's something I've had in my mind, but I was afraid to do it," McGaughey said. "But the way he ran the other day I was just a little bit scared if I didn't try it."

Helsinki, a son of Distorted Humor trained by Nick Zito, comes in off of a maiden win at Pimlico and first-level allowance score at Delaware. Believeinmenow, a son of Tiznow trained by James Bond, won a second-level allowance race here on May 6.