Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dunkirk's win puts him on Derby path

After convincing victory, 3-year-old is pointing toward Florida Derby

By Mike Welsch
Daily Racing Form

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - In a performance that catapulted him into the Kentucky Derby picture, Dunkirk overcame an adventurous trip to thoroughly dominate a very talented field of 3-year-old allowance rivals going 1 1/8 miles in Thursday's featured eighth race.

Dunkirk, a $3.7 million juvenile purchase at the 2007 Keeneland sale, was fanned about six wide on the clubhouse turn and remained wide in the run down the backstretch and around the second turn. Dunkirk wore down pacesetter Alma d'Oro leaving the quarter pole before edging away to a 4 3/4-length victory over Warrior's Reward. The win was the second in as many starts for the son of Unbridled's Song, who overcame a slow start to capture his debut going seven furlongs less than four weeks earlier. Garrett Gomez flew in from California to ride Dunkirk for trainer Todd Pletcher.

"That was a beautiful performance. I couldn't be more pleased," Pletcher said in the winner's circle after the race. "It was asking an awful lot of this horse to stretch out to a mile and one-eighth off a seven-furlong maiden win against a stakes-quality field like this. And the way he overcame all that adversity on the first turn with no problem proved he is a special horse."
Pletcher said that Dunkirk would likely follow 2008 Derby winner Big Brown's lead from last winter and go directly from his first-level allowance victory into the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 28.

"He's here, he's 2 for 2 over the track, and the spacing is good between races, so at the moment I'd say the Florida Derby would be my first choice," Pletcher said.
Lael Stable acquires Frolic's Dream
Frolic's Dream, impressive winner of the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes earlier this month, has been sold privately by Robert Murphy and Sandy Price-Murphy's Dare to Dream Farm to the Lael Stable of Roy and Gretchen Jackson for an undisclosed price. Frolic's Dream was transferred from trainer Marty Wolfson to her new home with trainer Barclay Tagg on Thursday afternoon.

"It's taken a while for all of this to come together and it's really been a pleasure working with Roy Jackson during the negotiations," said Murphy's son, Rob Jr., who helped iron out the deal. "From my dad's standpoint, you hate to sell a filly of this caliber, but both the offer and the timing were right. And he still has an unraced 2-year-old half-brother by Aldebaran and a 3-year-old full sister to Frolic's Dream, so it's not like he's losing the whole family."

Wolfson had been pointing Frolic's Dream to the Grade 2 Davona Dale on March 1. Her only setback in five starts was a head loss in the Grade 3 Old Hat earlier this winter.

Keep the Peace returns in allowance
Along with the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida, Saturday's program also will feature the return of the talented filly Keep the Peace, who will make her first start in nearly nine months going six furlongs under allowance conditions in the second race.

Keep the Peace turned in a couple of scintillating performances here last winter. The New York-bred daughter of Touch Gold won a first-level allowance race by seven lengths in her 3-year-old debut before dropping a tough nose decision to Bsharpsonata following a stretch-long battle in the 2008 Forward Gal.

The Forward Gal was the first of three tough setbacks for Keep the Peace in graded races during her abbreviated 3-year-old campaign. She also was second, beaten a neck by Game Face, on Derby Day in the Grade 3 La Troienne and second, beaten a half-length by Acoma, in the Grade 3 Dogwood at Churchill Downs when last postward on May 31.

"She had a few minor issues last summer and had run hard during the opening half of the season, so we decided to turn her out and freshen her up," said Eddie Kenneally, who trains Keep the Peace for Gary and Mary West. "She's training well for her return and should run well on Saturday."

Kenneally said his main goal this season with Keep the Peace is to win a graded stakes.

"She was very unlucky not to have won a graded race last year," Kenneally said. "If she comes back as good as she was last year, and I have no reason to believe she won't, I think she should be able to accomplish that goal somewhere this season."

Kelly's Landing retired
Kenneally also reported that Kelly's Landing, winner of the 2007 Dubai Golden Shaheen, has been retired. The 8-year-old gelded son of Patton closed out his career finishing seventh and last in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector on Jan. 17.

"He retired completely sound," Kenneally said. "He's competed at such a high level for such a long time, and we realized he wasn't going to be able to compete at that level any more."

Kenneally said Kelly's Landing is residing where he was born and raised, on the Summerplace Farm in Lexington, Ky.

"He'll wind down on the farm for a while and then might come back to the track this summer as a pony," Kenneally said.

Kelly's Landing retired with 10 wins from 27 starts and earnings of more than $1.85 million.

Kip Deville prepares for Dubai
Kip Deville breezed a leisurely half-mile in 52.40 seconds under exercise rider Michelle Nevin here Thursday, after which trainer Rick Dutrow reported everything is still a go to send the horse to Dubai for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes on March 28.

"He leaves on the 17th," Dutrow said. "What I'm hoping to do is get permission to work him over this turf course without the cones up, either in the morning or afternoon, next Wednesday. He doesn't like breezing around the cones, and I really want to be safe with Kip."

Reynolds 3-year-olds work together
Trainer Pat Reynolds said he still hasn't lost faith in either of his top 3-year-old prospects, Well Positioned and Dubinsky, despite recent disappointing performances from both horses. The pair worked in company after the renovation break here Thursday, with Dubinsky going five furlongs in 1:01.20 and Well Positioned covering the same distance in 1:01.60.

Well Positioned came to town as one of the more talked about 3-year-old prospects on the grounds after his easy and well graded maiden win in New York at 2. But the son of Awesome Again broke slowly and flashed only brief speed before finishing a distant sixth going a mile in his 2009 bow on Jan. 31.

Reynolds, who was winless here this winter through Thursday's program, said he's expecting better days ahead.

"The tide should turn," he said. "As Tony Montana said in Scarface, 'Every dog has his day.'"

That day could come Sunday for Reynolds, who will send out his Grade 1 winner Backseat Rhythm as the likely favorite in the Grade 3 The Very One Stakes.

The Very One drew a full field of 14 fillies and mares.

* Capt. Candyman Can worked five furlongs in 1:01.70 at Palm Meadows on Thursday. Capt. Candyman Can, winner of the Grade 2 Hutcheson in his 3-year-old debut, will be among the favorites in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 28.

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