Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. put his star miler into the Poker almost as an afterthought because the 5-year-old gray horse was doing so well since defeating Einstein in the Maker's Mark Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland in April. Though Kip Deville spotted his four over-matched rivals from nine to 11 pounds while carrying 125, he steadily drew away from challenger Tam Lin in the homestretch for a 2 3/4-length victory. Ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, he finished powerfully while crossing the wire in an excellent time of 1:32.94 for the one-turn mile.
The Oklahoma-bred Kip Deville recorded his ninth win in 12 starts at the distance, although most of those races were of the two-turn variety. The Poker was Kip Deville's first effort over Belmont's Widener course.
There was not an obvious pacesetter in the field so Kip Deville went to the front soon after the start and set an easy early pace while pushed along by 19-1 outsider Sensational Humor who held a slight lead at the half-mile point while racing on the hedge. The quarter-mile fractions for the first six furlongs were :24.36, :47.32 and 1:10.20. Kip Deville took the lead rounding the turn for home as Sensational Humor fell back. The British invader Tam Lin, who did not break sharply, ranged into contention in upper stretch and finished well, but Kip Deville pulled away under a vigorous hand ride. Tam Lin, ridden by John Velazquez, was a clear second by two lengths over Operation Red Dawn, who closed mildly for jockey Alan Garcia to finish a non-threatening third.
A partnership of IEAH Stables, Pegasus Holding Group Stables, Roberts and Cohen owns Kip Deville, winner of the 2007 NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) and a finalist for the Eclipse award as the nation's best male turf runner. Dutrow said he has mapped a schedule that is much like last year's in anticipation of the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, where Kip Deville won the Frank Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT) in March 2007. He will likely head to Woodbine on Sept. 7 for the Woodbine Mile (Can-I) next.
“Kip likes to set off, that’s his game,” said Dutrow. “He found himself on the lead, and then Cornelio was able to keep him right in striking distance. His next race will be in Canada and it looks like what we have to do is keep him where he is at.”
“He’s a super racehorse,” said Mike Iavarone of IEAH Stable. “We’ve been running all over the place with him, and we’re happy to get him to New York. He loves this turf. Just look at his last quarter (less than 23 seconds).”
Kip Deville, by Kipling out of the Encino mare Klondike Kaytie, notched his 11th lifetime win in 23 starts. He boosted his earnings to $2,685,402. Center Hills Farm bred the winner.
Sent off at odds of 2-5, Kip Deville paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10. Godolphin's Tam Lin, who defeated Cosmonaut by a nose in a Belmont overnight stakes one month ago, returned $2.90 and $2.10, completing a $2 exacta worth $5.40. Operation Red Dawn, conditioned by Christophe Clement, was $2.30. The $1 trifecta was a miniscule $4.40.
“(Kip Deville) broke sharp today, but I was able to settle him down,” Velasquez said. “And he got the last quarter in 22 and change. This should set him up for the big race in Canada.”
Sensational Humor and Steppenwolfer, making his first start in 13 months, trailed the field.