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Duke of the City Set for Saturday Clash with Capo Bastone
A valiant second while coming off a layoff in a 1 1/8-mile allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 26, Duke of the City is scheduled to take on Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) third-place finisher Capo Bastone in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile ninth race.
“I kind of wish his race on Saturday was a mile and an eighth. I think he needed his first race, and hopefully, he’ll improve off of that,” trainer Kelly Breen said.
“There looks like a little bit more speed in this race. He’s a very big horse with a long stride, so I think the longer distance suits him better.”
Coming off a four-month layoff, the 3-year-old son of Bernardini set a pressured pace before being passed by highly regarded Orb in the stretch and fighting back late to fall only a length short of the Shug McGaughey-trained winner.
“We nominated him for the Triple Crown series, but we’re taking it one race at a time, one step at a time,” Breen said. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”
Duke of the City, owned by Lori and George Hall, is out of Meadow Breeze, a Grade 1 stakes winner by Meadowlake.
“I’ve been fortunate to buy a lot of good horses for the Halls, mostly at Keeneland. You might like a lot of horses when you go to a sale, and it’s just a matter of being the fortunate one to get one that’s in your price range for a specific horse,” Breen said. “When we were able to take him home for the price we gave for him, $130,000 for a Bernardini colt, we did exceptionally well purchasing him.”
Duke of the City debuted at Monmouth on Sept. 3 with a third-place finish in a 5 ½ -furlong maiden race. Two weeks later, he posted a front-running victory going a mile at Laurel Park.
“He’s a big horse with a really long stride. I knew he wasn’t going to win going five furlongs, but at the time, it was either that or keep him in the barn for another two months,” Breen said. “We started him out knowing he was going to need more distance.”
Duke of the City’s stablemate Pants On Fire will make his second start of the Gulfstream meeting in Friday’s sixth race, a $65,000 optional claiming allowance at the distance of a mile. The 2011 Louisiana Derby (G2) winner finished third in the Hal’s Hope (G3) on Jan. 13. The son of Jump Start stumbled at the start, made a three-wide bid on the turn while vying for the lead and fought gamely to the finish, checking in a half-length behind victorious Csaba.
“He just got a little bit tired, and he had a right to get tired. His race at Delta Downs, he didn’t get anything out of it,” said Breen, who saddled Pants On Fire for a 4 ½ length victory in a Gulfstream allowance last winter. “I just want to see him run a good race. I’m taking it one race at a time.”
Friday’s sixth race attracted a strong collection of veteran runners in addition to Pants on Fire, including Winslow Homer, the 2010 Holy Bull (G3) winner, Eldaafer, the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner, and Duke of Mischief, a winner of $1.9 million.
“He had trouble in the gate (in the Hal’s Hope). Hopefully, he’ll be good in the gate this time,” Breen said. “I’m not crazy about post position No. 1, knowing he can be a handful in the gate at times and he’ll be in the gate for a while. Hopefully, he’ll behave.”