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2008 Poker winner Kip Deville is back to try again in 2009.
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Kip Deville Gets Back to Business in Poker

The four-time grade I winner goes for repeat in Belmont's one-mile turf event.

After disappointing his connections with an uncharacteristically poor showing in the $5-million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I), Kip Deville returns to Belmont Park in hopes of reprising one of his most authoritative victories in the $100,000 Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) on June 14.

IEAH Stables' four-time grade I winner of $3,319,614 in his career failed to quicken and finished 10th in the nine-furlong Duty Free on Dubai World Cup night at Nad al Sheba March 28.

“We thought he was going to do great, but it didn’t work out,” said trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. of Kip Deville. “I guess he didn’t like flying across the Atlantic. He’s run big everywhere he’s run.”

Kip Deville won last year's Poker, which he captured in commanding front-running style by nearly three lengths as the 2-5 choice. Following consecutive grade I wins in the Breeder's Cup Mile and the Maker's Mark Mile, the striking gray with the flowing two-toned tail dueled early for the lead on the firm course and then sprinted home to easily defeat Godolphin's Tam Lin.

Kip Deville, Tam Lin and Operation Red Dawn, who was third last year, are among six entered in the one-mile Poker, which is contested at one mile on the Widener turf course. With regular rider Cornelio Velasquez aboard, Kip Deville will carry top weight of 123 pounds, spotting his rivals from five to seven pounds apiece.

After breaking his maiden at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, the 6-year-old Oklahoma-bred son of Kipling has won 12 of 28 lifetime starts.

“He’s developed into a really good one, as we all know,” said Dutrow. “He absolutely loves being a racehorse. Last year was a breathtaking performance (in the Poker), and we are all very excited about his chances.”

This will be the third start of the year for Kip Deville, who finished off last season with a runner-up effort to the super-filly Goldikova in the Breeders' Cup MIle and a ninth-place finish in Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile (HK-I). Freshened for six weeks after Sha Tin, Kip Deville returned to action with a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) Feb. 1, then was shipped to Dubai.

Tam Lin began his season in Dubai for trainer Saeed bin Suroor before returning to New York this spring. Back at Belmont, where he has two victories (including the grade II Kelso last year), two seconds, and a third in five starts, the 6-year-old son of Selkirk finished second to Cosmonaut in the May 2 Fort Marcy (gr. IIIT).

“He’s a group horse here, he wins the Kelso by four, and then he finishes up the track in an allowance at Tampa Bay,” observed Rick Mettee, Godolphin’s North American racing manager.

Operation Red Dawn, a 7-year-old gelding trained by Christophe Clement for Dion A. Recachina, ran third in the Fort Marcy in his first start in 5 1/2 months.The son of Miswaki finished just a neck behind Tam Lin.

Team Valor International’s Sailor's Cap will be making the first start of his 4-year-old campaign in the Poker. Trained by Jimmy Toner, the son of Distant View was 2-1-2 from seven starts in 2008, including a 6 3/4-length victory on soft turf in the Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT). Like Tam Lin, less than firm footing could be to his advantage in facing Kip Deville.

“He does handle soft going pretty good,” said Toner. “He’s been very consistent. It’s a solid, competitive field, and you hate to face a Kip Deville to start out, but you have to start somewhere.”

Fox Ridge Farms’ Yield Bogey, an allowance winner going seven furlongs at Belmont on May 23, and Sugartown Stable’s Thou Swell complete the line-up.

$100,000 Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, Trainer
1. Sailor's Cap, 116, Alan Garcia, James J. Toner
2. Yield Bogey, 116, Jean-Luc Samyn, Patrick Kelly
3. Tam Lin (GB), 118, Javier Castellano, Saeed bin Suroor
4. Thou Swell, 116, Eibar Coa, George Weaver
5. Operation Red Dawn, 116, Ramon Dominguez, Christophe Clement
6. Kip Deville, 123, Cornelio Velasquez, Richard E. Dutrow Jr.