Donegal Racing's TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I) victor Dullahan is the 4-5 morning-line favorite for the $400,000 Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT) when he faces seven other sophomores Oct. 6 at Belmont Park.
European import Cogito also adds to an intriguing edition of the 1 1/8-mile turf event, race nine on a 10-race card with an approximate post time of 5:06 p.m. EDT.
Although winless in three starts on grass, Dullahan is graded stakes-placed over the surface, having finished second in his 2012 debut to fellow Jamaica entrant Howe Great in the March 11 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park and third in the With Anticipation (gr. IIT) last summer at Saratoga Race Course.
"This will be his first time on the turf where he's 100 percent," trainer Dale Romans said of the colt, who began his career on grass and finished second going 1 1/16 miles at Saratoga. "As a 2-year-old, he hadn't really turned the corner, and the Palm Beach was his first start off a layoff. I'm kind of anxious to see what he does."
A three-time grade I winner over synthetic tracks (he also took the this year's Toyota Blue Grass and 2011 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland), Dullahan also finished third in this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and fourth in the 2011 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) on dirt.
With that versatility in mind, Romans is looking at a number of Breeders' Cup options next month for the son of Even the Score, from the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) to the Mile (gr. IT), also on turf, or even the 1 1/4 mile Classic (gr. I) on the main track at Santa Anita Park.
"The Jamaica is one of the last 3-year-old races of the year, and the 1 1/8 miles opens up a lot of options," said Romans, who sent Dullahan out to breeze five furlongs in 1:00.44 Sept. 30 over the Belmont main track. "It's easier going longer, from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/2 miles or 1 1/4 miles, but we could also go a mile."
Joel Rosario, aboard when Dullahan upset leading older horse Game On Dude in the Pacific Classic, retains the mount. Under high weight at 123 pounds, Dullahan will leave from post position 3.
Cogito was originally was scheduled to make his U.S. debut in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) for Reddam Racing, but missed the race before shipping from Europe. The son of Giant's Causeway comes off a July 22 second-place finish in the 1 1/4-mile Prix Eugene Adam de Maisons-Laffitte (Fr-II) last time out.
With Frankie Dettori named to ride, the Brian Meehan trainee drew post position 4 and was listed as the 4-1 second choice on the morning line.
Among other interesting challengers is Summer Front, who is 5-for-6 on turf, with his only loss a third-place finish in the Aug. 18 Secretariat (gr. IT) at Arlington Park. Trained by Christophe Clement for Waterford Stable, the War Front colt is 2-for-2 over Belmont turf. He broke his maiden going six furlongs last fall and gained his first graded stakes in June with a half-length victory over Howe Great in the Hill Prince (gr. IIIT).
"I thought in the Secretariat, even though he finished third, he lacked a bit of racing luck," said Clement. "He was closer to the pace than I would have liked, and the race was a little bit against him."
Howe Great also comes into the Jamaica off a recent California start, running second by three-quarters of a length in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT). Team Valor International's consistent Hat Trick colt has been off the board just once in 10 career starts, finishing fifth behind Dullahan in the Blue Grass for trainer Graham Motion.
Rounding out the field for the Jamaica are Unbridled Command, who stretched his win streak to three with a victory in the Saranac (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga; King David, making his stakes debut after being claimed for $35,000 by Michael Maker; Shkspeare Shaliyah, most recently 10th in the Saranac, and King Kreesa, fourth in the Saranac.
$400,000 Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT, Race 9, approximate post 5:06 p.m. EDT), 3YO, 1 1/8 miles (inner turf)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Unbridled Command (NY), C.H. Velasquez, 117, T M Bush, 12-1
2. King David (KY), R. Napravnik, 112, M J Maker, 20-1
3. Dullahan (KY), J. Rosario, 123, D L Romans, 4-5
4.Cogito (VA), L. Dettori, 118, B Meehan, 4-1
5. Summer Front (KY), R.A. Dominguez, 121, C Clement, 5-1
6. Shkspeare Shaliyah (FL), I. Ortiz, Jr., 114, D Shivmangal, 30-1
7. Howe Great (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 121, H G Motion, 6-1
8. King Kreesa (NY), E. Castro, 116, J C Englehart, 20-1