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Kip DeVille seeks repeat in Grade 3 Poker

ELMONT, N.Y. – He began his career at a small track in Oklahoma back in 2005, but since then, IEAH Stables’ Kip Deville has become very much the world traveler. With stops in Canada, California, Hong Kong, Florida, and Dubai, among others, he’s racked up lots of frequent flyer miles along the way as well as four Grade 1 victories, most recently January’s Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

Sunday, the now six-year-old son of Kipling returns to the site of one of his most commanding performances as he defends his title in the 25th running of the Grade 3, $100,000-added Poker against five others, including the second and third finishers from last year’s one-mile race on Belmont Park’s turf.

“He’s developed into a really good one, as we all know,” said trainer Richard Dutrow, Jr., of Kip Deville, a winner of 12 of his 28 lifetime starts and more than $3.3 million. “He absolutely loves being a racehorse. Last year was a breathtaking performance, and we are all very excited about his chances.”

Kip Deville, a striking gray horse with a long, flowing, two-toned tail, will be making his second start of the year and first since finishing 10th in the Grade 1 Dubai Duty Free in March, a race which turned out to be a disappointment for all his connections.

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

Including Belmont Park. In last year’s Poker, Kip Deville, the 2-5 choice off consecutive Grade 1 wins in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and the Maker’s Mark Mile, dueled for the early lead and then sprinted home to the wire for an impressive 2¾-length victory over Godolphin Stable’s Tam Lin (GB), who returns from last year’s Poker along with Operation Red Dawn, who was third in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy in his first start of 2009.

Like Kip Deville, who is 1-for-1 at Belmont Park, Tam Lin appears to be very much a horse for the course – in five starts on the turf here, the 6-year-old gelded son of Selkirk owns two victories (including the Grade 2 Kelso), two seconds and one third. In his forays away from Belmont Park since arriving from Europe a year ago, Tam Lin has failed to hit the board in four starts. But after finishing seventh and 13th in a pair of races in Dubai, Tam Lin got off the plane and held for second in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy on May 2.

“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.

Team Valor International’s Sailor’s Cap will be making the first start of his four-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 victory in the Grade 3 Colonial Turf Cup. 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.”

Rounding out the field are Fox Ridge Farms’ Yield Bogey, an allowance winner going seven furlongs here on May 23, and Sugartown Stable’s Thou Swell.


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