The 1 1/8-mile Donn attracted a field of 11, including the undefeated Trickmeister, who makes his graded stakes debut, and Redeemed, a winner of consecutive stakes. Shackleford and Ruler On Ice, the respective Preakness (gr. I) and Belmont (gr. I) stakes winners from a year ago, will both make their debuts as older horses.
Also in the mix in a contentious race is grade I winner Flat Out, who enters off a failed experiment on turf in the Jan. 14 Ft. Lauderdale (gr. IIIT); Soaring Empire, a two-time winner at Gulfstream; and millionaire Mission Impazible.
Post time for the Donn, one of four graded races on the Saturday Gulfstream card, is set for 4:45 p.m. EST.
Dutrow used the Donn as a springboard for Saint Liam during his Horse of the Year campaign in 2005, and he is hoping for the same with the talented Trickmeister, who returned from a 14-month layoff Dec. 17 to win the 1 1/16-mile Harlan’s Holiday Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream. His stellar final time of 1:42.63 proved the time off was only a help to the bay horse.
Now 5, the son of Proud Citizen was a highly-regarded 3-year-old in 2010 before cannon bone issues sidelined him.
“It took us a year and a half to get him right, but we have him right now," Dutrow said. "When he came back he was unbelievable. He’s scary.”
Trickmeister, who is owned by Pegasus Holding Group and IEAH Stables, started his undefeated streak in May of 2010 at Delaware Park. He wired a field in a six-furlong maiden special weight race, then came back a month later to do the same in an allowance event by 4 3/4 lengths. Stakes victories in the Barbaro at Delaware Park and Pleasant Colony at Saratoga followed, the latter coming by 11 3/4 lengths.
“The race in Saratoga he ran huge,” Dutrow said. “He was not going that good into that race, but when he turned for home I thought, ‘Oh man, we should have run him in the Travers.’ We did the right thing in the end though. (Garrett) Gomez got off him and said he wasn’t right, but if we got him right, he could be anything.”
Ramon Dominguez will ride Trickmeister in the Donn.
Dutrow’s other entrant, Redeemed, may not be as outwardly talented as Trickmeister, but he never runs a bad race. The 4-year-old son of Include is 5-2-1 from eight lifetime starts, including a score in the Discovery Handicap (gr. III) in November to complete his sophomore campaign. Prior to that, he won the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park. The bay colt broke his maiden over the Gulfstream track last March.
Jay Em Ess Stable owns Redeemed, who will be ridden by Edgar Prado.
“We are happy every time he runs,” Dutrow said. “He runs well every time we take him over there. His last race was so professional. He’s had plenty of time since that last race and he likes this track.”
Both Trickmeister and Redeemed worked a half-mile between races for Dutrow Feb. 8 at Gulfstream.
Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s Shackleford has been working steadily all winter at Gulfstream. The 4-year-old son of Forestry had his breakout race over the track last April when he ran a heartbreaking second at 68-1 in the Florida Derby (gr. I). That race launched a very productive campaign in which he won the Preakness and was second in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I), Indiana Derby (gr. II), and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I).
An earner of more than $1.9 million from 12 starts, Shackleford will once again be ridden by regular jockey Jesus Castanon.
“He hasn’t missed a beat (since the Breeders’ Cup),” trainer Dale Romans said last weekend. “He hasn’t missed a beat in his life. It’s his nature. He’s just tough.”
George and Lori Hall’s Ruler On Ice has not won since the Belmont, but always seems to be around the money. He was third in both the Haskell and Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), and runner-up in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II). The son of Roman Ruler closed out his 3-year-old season with a fifth-place effort in the Clark Handicap (gr. I).
With the speed of Trickmeister and Shackleford, the race could set up for the closing style of Ruler On Ice, who will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik for Kelly Breen.
“At times he has a little bit of trouble with the pace. He’s just not that quick out of the gate,” said Breen. “He was more forwardly placed in a race like the Belmont because they went the first half mile in :49 as opposed to :47 and change, but he’s pretty honest.
“We thought he might have a chance to be 3-year-old champion if he won (the Clark), but he came out of the race with a little lung infection that took a while to clean out. He’s doing great now. We’re looking for a good transition from his 3 to 4-year-old season.”
Preston Stables’ Flat Out, who went off as the favorite in both the BC Classic (fifth) and Clark (third), was 12th in the Ft. Lauderdale, which was his first start on turf. Winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and Suburban Handicap (gr. II) in 2011, 6-year-old Flat Out has earned more than $1.3 from his 15 career starts. He will carry top weight of 121 pounds, including Alex Solis.
Mission Impazible was runner-up in the Clark to end his 4-year-old season. He should also be part of the early pace under Javier Castellano.
The Donn, along with teh Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II), will be aired by HRTV.
$500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I, Race 10, 4:45 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Where's Sterling (KY), J Lezcano, 115, N Canani
2. Mission Impazible (KY), J Castellano, 117, T A Pletcher
3. Ruler On Ice (KY), R Napravnik ,119, K J Breen
4. Redeemed (VA), E S Prado, 118, R E Dutrow Jr.
5. Soaring Empire (KY), J R Leparoux, 116, C M Gambolati
6. Al Khali (KY), A Garcia, 115, W I Mott
7. Flat Out (FL), A O Solis,121, C L Dickey
8. Trickmeister (KY), R A Dominguez, 117, R E Dutrow Jr.
9. Shackleford (KY), J L Castanon, 119, D L Romans
10. Hymn Book (KY), J R Velazquez, 116, C R McGaughey III
11. Sangaree (KY), R Maragh, 115, K P McLaughlin