Dunkirk , who made headlines before he ever started as a $3.7 million Keeneland September yearling buy, figures to be making many more on the track following his impressive 4 3/4-length win in an important 3-year-old allowance race at Gulfstream Park Feb. 19.
Afterward, trainer Todd Pletcher said he is pointing for the Florida Derby (gr. I) on March 28 for Dunkirk. But the lightly-raced colt -- two wins in as many starts -- may not start again before then.
"Right now, I’d say it’s most likely that he won’t run before going straight into the Florida Derby," Pletcher said. "He’s here and he’s two-for-two over the track. That would be my first choice right now.”
Seven of the 10 3-year-olds in the field that Dunkirk defeated are nominated for the Triple Crown.
Ridden by Garrett Gomez, who flew in from California for the mount, the stalking Dunkirk was hung out extremely wide on the first turn of the 1 1/8-mile heat. But the roan/gray son of Unbridled's Song found a good spot while racing fifth on the outside down the backstretch and responded willingly on the turn for home while continuing to race three wide.
Dunkirk, the 6-5 favorite, gained command from Alma d'Oro leaving the quarter pole and continued to impress through the lane, drawing away from Warrior's Reward and Calvin Borel after being roused in upper stretch by Gomez. The final time was 1:50.15 on a fast track.
“I got pushed wide on the (first) turn, but when I asked him he was super," Gomez said. "That’s the way a special horse responds. He did what I asked of him and pulled us out of a little trouble. I wouldn’t say I was confident (before race). I didn’t know much about him coming in, but when you’re working with a horse like this, you’re going to look pretty good most of the time.”
Owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, Dunkirk paid $4.40 for his second win in as many starts. Dunkirk debuted with a come-from-behind 5 3/4-length maiden win at seven furlongs Jan. 24.
“I’m very pleased with the way he ran," Pletcher said. "It was a lot to ask to go from one seven-eighths race to a mile-and-an-eighth against a stakes quality field, and then (he) got carried very wide in the first turn. But he overcame it all with no problem."
Warrior's Reward ran second by 1 3/4 lengths over 48-1 shot Sincero, ridden by Julien Leparoux. More Than Willing was two lengths back in fourth after making a wide bid on the final turn.
Alma d'Oro, the 5-2 second choice, settled for fifth after wresting the lead away from early pacesetter Jet Set Vinny after a quarter-mile. Fractions for the opening six furlongs were :23.55, :47.39 and 1:11.70. Dunkirk ran the final eighth of a mile in :13.09.
Bred in Kentucky by William S. Farish, James Elkins and Temple Webber Jr., Dunkirk is out of the A.P. Indy mare Secret Status, a multiple grade I winner and a full sister to multiple grade III winner Alumni Hall.