Kip Deville Returns in Poker Handicap
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Maker's Mark Mile winner Kip Deville faces four in the Poker Handicap.
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Last year’s NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I) winner Kip Deville has a clear edge in class over his four contenders in the $100,000 Poker Handicap (gr. IIIT) July 13 at Belmont, but will have to carry 125 pounds, which is nine to 11 more than his rivals.

A five-time graded stakes winner, Kip Deville will face four older rivals who are without a graded stakes victory between them. The Poker is a one-mile trek over the Belmont turf. It will go off as race 4 on the 10-race program. Post time is 2:35 p.m. EDT.

As he did in 2007, Kip Deville began his 2008 season by winning the Maker’s Mark Mile (gr. IIT) at Keeneland, where he rallied to beat Einstein by a length. It was the third grade I score of his career. But unlike last year when the Oklahoma-bred horse went out to California after the Maker’s Mark, this time around he came East.

“Last year, I thought it was interesting what we did out in California,” said trainer Rick Dutrow, who sent Kip Deville to Hollywood Park for off-the-board finishes in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) California Stakes (gr. II). “We wanted to see how our horses liked Polytrack, and we knew Kip Deville liked Santa Anita’s turf course because he won the Kilroe out there. Plus, they paid our way.

“We’re staying East for now, but realistically, there are three big races for him this year: the Maker’s Mark, which he already won, the race in Canada (Woodbine Mile; Sept. 7) and the Breeders’ Cup Mile (Santa Anita, Oct. 25). At this stage, he pretty much takes care of himself. He lets us know what’s up, and we figured that, rather than ship to California or whatever, he could stay right here and run in the Poker and give him something to do.”

Kip Deville last worked at Aqueduct July 9, when he turned in a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.90.

Owned by IEAH Stables and Pegasus Holding Group, Kip Deville is a 5-year-old son of Kipling  --Klondike Kaytie, by Encino. He was bred by Center Hill Farms. The gray/roan horse has produced a 10-3-2 record from 22 starts and has earned more than $2.6 million. Regular rider Cornelio Velasquez will get the mount and break from the outside post.

If Kip Deville gets tested it figures to come from Godolphin Racing’s Tam Lin, a 5-year-old English son of Selkirk. Trained by Saaed bin Suroor, Tam Lin enters off a nose victory in the one-mile Scottish Monk Stakes June 14 at Belmont. It was just the third North American start of his career.

In England, Tam Lin won four times on the turf, including the group III Totesport.com Winter Hill Stakes in 2006.

Also of note is 2006 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) third-place finisher Steppenwolfer, who makes just his fourth turf start for Robert and Lawana Low. The 5-year-old Daniel Peitz trainee finished second in optional claiming company at Belmont in May and was eighth in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) June 9.

“We brought him back here and tried him on the grass, which was something I had been wanting to do,” Peitz said. “He ran a big (optional claiming) race and probably should have won, except he got boxed in, then shuffled back and then made a big run.

“That race was at a mile, and we stretched him out in the Manhattan and he didn’t do any good. After that, I noticed that he was getting hot, so he was fretting about something. We looked him up and down and took a bunch of pictures (x-rays) but we couldn’t find anything. Yet, I knew something was wrong because he kept getting hot. We couldn’t train, we couldn’t race, so we finally sent him to Dr. (Larry) Bramlage. Sure enough, his right knee started lighting up and they discovered a crack. It didn’t require surgery, just time, but at least we knew what was causing him trouble.”

$100,000 Poker Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 4, 2:35 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Sensational Humor (KY), 114, Rajiv Maragh
2. Steppenwolfer (KY), 114, Channing Hill
3. Tam Lin (GB), 116, John R. Velazquez
4. Operation Red Dawn (KY), 115, Alan Garcia
5. Kip Deville (OK), 125, Cornelio H. Velasquez

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