02/17/2009 1:00AM

Alma d'Oro owns top figure


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - It was nearly a year ago when the 2008 Kentucky Derby winner, Big Brown, first burst onto the local scene winning an entry-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Thursday's main event at Gulfstream could potentially have similar implications with a field of 10 promising 3-year-olds set to go 1 1/8 miles in a first-level allowance race that has much more at stake than a $42,000 purse.

Big Brown's trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., is hoping that lightning might strike again this year with Alma d'Oro, who drew off to a five-length victory going a mile in his 3-year-old debut on Jan. 15. The outing was the first for Alma d'Oro since he was transferred to Dutrow's barn last fall from Joe Deegan. Alma d'Oro, a son of Medaglia d'Oro, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 for his maiden win, easily the highest of any member of Thursday's lineup.

Todd Pletcher will counter with a pair of good-looking prospects, including the $3.7 million yearling purchase Dunkirk. A son of Unbridled's Song, he was an impressive-looking maiden winner in his debut here Jan. 24. He will be joined by stablemate American Dance, who has not started since finishing third behind Old Fashioned in the Grade 2 Remsen on Nov. 29.

"Dunkirk ran a very big race in his first start, and it's important now to get a two-turn race into him," said Pletcher. "That would potentially put us in position to come back in a good stakes, although there are four or five others in here thinking the same thing, so in reality this is like a stakes.

"American Dance is a quality horse who exceeded our expectations, considering his breeding, by coming into his own a little quicker than we expected, and we've been targeting an allowance race like this all along."

Garrett Gomez will fly in from the West Coast to ride Dunkirk, replacing Edgar Prado, who has opted to keep his regular seat on Alma d'Oro.

More Than Willing is the only member of the field with a win at the distance, having graduated going nine furlongs on Jan. 25.

Warrior's Reward will break right next to More Than Willing and exits a game victory going a mile in his career debut on Jan. 31. Warrior's Reward will race with Lasix for the first time on Thursday.

They're Late, third under similar conditions five weeks earlier, could also be a key player if he improves off that performance.