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By Ed Gray
Trainer Bill Kaplan swells with pride at the mere mention of Dream Maestro, a durable 6-year-old campaigner who’s slated to run in Saturday’s $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s an old warrior, pure class. He’s done everything I’ve asked him,” Kaplan responded to a recent inquiry about the Florida-bred son of Concerto. “He’s a big, strapping chestnut, and I love him.”
It should be easy to love a veteran stakes performer that has banked $480,123 for his owners Herbert and Ione Elkins, but Dream Maestro has toyed with his connections’ affections with his all-too-frequent knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
“If you look in the dictionary under ‘bridesmaid,’ his picture’s in there. He has 16 seconds and 90 percent of them are within a length. So he does have a little problem if he makes the lead too soon, because he waits for horses and then he can’t catch them,” his Calder-based trainer said. “But he has all the talent in the world. One of these days, he’s going to keep going once he makes the lead.”
Dream Maestro has visited the winner’s circle only three times from 40 starts (twice from 14 starts at Gulfstream), but he has finished first, second or third 27 times.
‘He’s always in the mix. He’s made almost $500,000 and we bought him for $75,000. He’s still eligible for ‘non-winners of three other than’ – that’s amazing,” Kaplan said. “It indicates there’s more in there. I’ve just got to get it out of him. For some reason, I can’t get him over that idiosyncrasy, so we’ve got to time it for him to hit the wire at the right time.”
Prior to prepping for the Classic with a fifth-place in the Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream Jan. 8, Dream Maestro suffered what may well have been his toughest-to-take defeats in the Fred Hooper Handicap (G3) at Calder on Dec. 11. Dream Maestro fell short of winning his first graded-stakes victory by just a nose to Tackleberry, while finishing three lengths clear of multiple-stakes winner Mambo Meister.
“He had the lead by a head or a neck at the eighth-pole. Even the track announcer called him going by horses, then (Tackleberry) came back and got him, because he waited for him,” Kaplan said. “Then, at the wire, he came back at him again, because the other horse got in front.”
Dream Maestro, who has six on-the-board finishes from 11 graded-stakes starts, hasn’t won a race since capturing an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on April 1, 2009, when he prevailed by a neck over 2008 Belmont Stakes winner Da’Tara, before finishing fourth in the Sunshine Millions Classic.