Sunday, June 14, 2009

Five-horse Poker game cruel to Deville

When the five players at the table showed their cards at the end of Sunday's Poker Stakes-G3 at Belmont Park, it was Sailor's Cap and not Kip Deville who found himself raking all the chips into his connections' corner.

The 6-year-old Kip Deville -- truth be told, one of my favorite horses of all time -- was trying to bounce back from a 10th-place finish in the distant Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night March 28. He tried to bluff the field into submission by raising the ante early, leading from the gate, but the game set up for 4-year-old Sailor's Cap, who relished the soft going of Belmont's Widener turf course Sunday.

Sailor's Cap, some might recall, won what had to be one of the soggiest American turf races in recent memory, last year's Colonial Turf Cup-G3. (Pictured above.) The Distant View colt is 2-for-3 over extremely soft ground, with his lone defeat being by a neck in the Crown Royal American Turf S.-G3.

Kip Deville was pressured Sunday by Yield Bogey, who managed to hang on for third while Kip faded to fourth. Tam Lin got up for second as he did (behind Kip) in 2008, while Operation Red Dawn, last year's show-horse in this race, was never really a factor.

As a native Kansan with Oklahoma ties, I've long followed the Okie-bred Kip Deville. I'll never forget his ridiculous early lead in the 2006 Colonial Turf Cup, when he bolted to a nearly 20-length margin down the backstretch. Then-one-dimensional (all-speed), Kip ultimately gave the whole advantage way to Showing Up, who beat him by 3 1/4 lengths. But nobody else caught the gray gamer before the wire, and he finished a tired, but brave second in the mile and three-sixteenths contest.

Kip found his way into IEAH Stables colors soon after and has gone on to far outrun his fairly modest pedigree. His signature win, of course, was his upset in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile, but he came back to win a Grade 1 at 5 (the Maker's Mark Mile) and early this year collected the trophy for the shortened Gulfstream Park Turf S.-G1, now at 9 furlongs.

But I do wonder what he has left in the tank. He's 6 years old; not over the hill but no youngster, either. And those springtime trips to Dubai can take a lot out of a horse. Sometimes everything. Some horses never regain their full form upon return to the States.

Kip hadn't run since March and probably needed the race. But Sailor's Cap was making his 2009 debut, so the layoff can't be the whole excuse.

It will be interesting to see how Kip comes out of the race, and where trainer Rick Dutrow points him next. Certainly the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita was again the ultimate target -- his win in 2007 was followed by a second-place in that race in 2008 -- but there's a lot of work to be done between now and then to get the horse ready.

Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing where Kip lands at stud. His success on the track earned an upgrade from Oklahoma to Kentucky for his sire, Kipling (Gulch-Weekend Storm, by Storm Bird). But I have to think if folks were dying to breed to Kip Deville, he'd have been retired at 5.

Still, he's just the kind of horse I'd like for one of my mares to see: Talented, sound and game, which go a long way toward overcoming mediocre pedigree. Kip Deville's pedigree might not be entirely fashionable, but his dam, Klondike Kaytie (Encino-Charming Dawn, by Vigors) raced 63 times and won 20, including a minor stakes victory, for $173,802. Kip's half-brother, Gotthard (by Ghazi) raced 78 times and won 22 for $286,645 (including the 2001 Claiming Crown Iron Horse Stakes). So when a member of this family does make it to races, they just might keep going back to the post for years.

Durability is something we should all be looking for in our racehorses.

Kip Deville pictured winning 2008 Poker Stakes (Photo/NYRA, Adam Coglianese)


  1. Seems like between the softer conditions and the trip to Dubai, Kip Deville was up against it today. That trip to the UAE must be much harder on horses than we realize. Indian Blessing didn't fare too well in her first race back either today.

  2. True ... I believe Indian Blessing was also fourth in her return performance Sunday.

    Mike Watchmaker of The Daily Racing Form has long considered the trip to Dubai too much to ask of most horses. He said for every horse that can return to prior form (Cigar, Silver Charm, Victory Gallop, etc.) "there is a list of American horses two to three times as long who were never the same after racing in the Dubai Cup, or took a very long time to recapture a semblance of peak form."


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