Nicanor & Well Positioned Set for Donn-Holy Bull Undercard

Renewals of the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) and $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) highlight an outstanding Saturday program at Gulfstream Park, and there will be plenty of action on the supporting card with Paul Pompa Jr.’s Well Positioned making his 3-year-old debut in the first race allowance and Lael Stable’s Nicanor, Barbaro’s 3-year-old full-brother, set to make his career debut in the eighth race.

Well Positioned makes his first start since his brilliant performance breaking his maiden by 14 ¼ lengths going one mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 23 for trainer Patrick Reynolds. The son of Awesome Again was a $350,000 Adena Springs 2-year-old purchase.

Jockey Javier Castellano gets a return call on Well Positioned in Saturday’s one-mile allowance facing six rivals. In one start at Belmont Park in October before breaking his maiden, Well Positioned showed little finishing sixth before the addition of ‘blinkers’ for his second start.

Nicanor is a full-brother (Dynaformer—La Ville Rouge) to Lael Stable’s ill-fated homebred Barbaro, winner of the 2006 Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) for trainer Michael Matz. Nicanor is entered to make his highly-anticipated career debut in the eighth race at one mile, run between the Holy Bull and Donn.

In addition to the Holy Bull and the races for Well Positioned and Nicanor, there will be two other races for 3-year-olds, both maiden special events drawing full fields of 12 with also-eligibles. The third race will be run at six furlongs and the sixth carded for five furlongs on turf.

Kip Deville, Arson Squad Helping Light a Fire in the Dutrow Barn

With two strong workouts from his Grade 1 challengers, trainer Rick Dutrow is poised for a huge weekend at Gulfstream Park as he sends out Jay Em Ess Stable’s Arson Squad in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) on Saturday and IEAH Stables’ Kip Deville in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) on Sunday.

Kip Deville, a 6-year-old gray son of Kipling, went for a second public workout on the Gulfstream turf course Wednesday afternoon, drilling five furlongs in 1:05.75 more than 84 feet out on the course. Jockey Cornelio Velasquez was aboard the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner and 2008 runner-up, and hewas glowing after the workout.

“When Cornelio got off him he said it might have been the best breeze that horse has ever turned in,” said Dutrow Thursday morning. “’Kip’ is just having so much fun out there right now.”

Arson Squad, a 6-year-old gelded son of Brahms, readied for his 2009 debut in the Donn with a blowout drill Thursday morning, timed three furlongs in 36 2/5 under Edgar Prado. The two will team again Saturday from post 7 in the winter’s premier race for older horses.

After winning two stakes on the Dubai World Cup program last year, Dutrow is itching to return again, and Arson Squad could be his ticket to the $6 million main event.

“It’s looking like a great opportunity to go to Dubai with him,” said Dutrow. “The Donn is a big race for sure, but it always sends a horse to Dubai for their big race. Right now he’s right on target and I really like how he’s doing and he likes how he’s doing. You can tell the horse is really feeling good right now.”

Dutrow’s entire barn seemed to be in top form with seemingly every horse returning from the track and bringing a smile to the reigning Kentucky Derby-winning trainer’s face.

“My good horses are ready to run and it’s looking like we’ve got a big weekend here,” he said. “We’re here this week and next week we go to California to see Stardom Bound run out there. Yeah, I’m smiling Babe.”

Stardom Bound will race for the first time under IEAH Stables’ colors Feb. 7 at Santa Anita in the $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (G1). The winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) in October was crowned Eclipse champion Monday. Stardom Bound will race in Dutrow’s name, although she is currently being looked after in California by Dutrow’s friend Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel.

Dutrow also reported Sunshine Millions Dash winner This Ones for Phil is doing “tremendous” after his victory last Saturday. The next planned stop for the gelded son of Untuttable will be the $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at one mile here Feb. 28.

“As long as he keeps training and looking like he does today, I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t be strong in that race,” said Dutrow.

Tough Questions for Albertus Maximus in Donn

With eyes fixed on the riches of Dubai, Shadwell Stable and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will send Albertus Maximus into Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) with questions to answer.

The 5-year-old son of Albert the Great has been off since winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita. He was purchased privately shortly after by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum with the goal of converting his form on synthetic tracks to natural dirt.

“We’re asking him to run longer and on dirt,” said Neal McLaughlin, assistant to his brother Kiaran and a key member of the team that guided Invasor to Donn and Dubai World Cup (G1) victories in 2007. “Those will be difficult questions for him, but we’re hoping he can step forward to the World Cup with a good race here.”

Albertus Maximus has not raced on dirt since his second and third career starts in 2007 before Santa Anita switched to a synthetic surface.

“He’s proved a mile is his best distance and he’s proved to be very good on the ‘Poly,’” said McLaughlin. “There are a couple things he needs to try and prove. He has run well on dirt in the past and he’s training on it very well here.”

The McLaughlin barn will not be active in the 3-year-old races this weekend at Gulfstream, but they do have the next round circled on their calendar as Shadwell’s Taqarub is being pointed for the $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on Feb. 27. The son of Aldebaran is 3-for-3 to start his career and won the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 19 in his most recent start.

Lezcano, Closing in on 1,000 Mark, Wins Two More Wednesday

Jockey Jose Lezcano won two races on Wednesday’s nine-race card at Gulfstream Park to bring his career total to 996, four shy of the 1,000 victory milestone, and is named on four mounts Thursday afternoon.

The two victories Wednesday for the 23-year-old native of Panama brought him into a tie for the lead in the Gulfstream standings with John R. Velazquez at 16 wins apiece. They are followed closely by Kent Desormeaux only one back in this with 15 and Eibar Coa fourth with 14 tallies.