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Anak Nakal heading to Dubai
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito will go global for the first time later this month when he sends Anak Nakal to Dubai for the World Cup.
Anak Nakal is coming off a seventh-place finish behind Albertus Maximus in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. Albertus Maximus could ultimately wind up the favorite to win the World Cup.
Anak Nakal, a son of Victory Gallop, is owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds. His last victory came in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 1. He also won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in his 2-year-old finale and finished third in the 2008 Belmont Stakes.
"It's a great honor just to get invited, and the owner wishes to go to Dubai," said Zito, who has never run a horse in Dubai. "Anak Nakal won a prestigious 2-year-old race, a Grade 2 as a 3-year-old, and also placed in one of the classics, finishing third in the Belmont. He's never been better and he certainly can run a distance of ground."
Zito said Anak Nakal's regular rider, Joe Bravo, would retain the mount in Dubai, but that he's uncertain whether he'll make the trip himself.
"I've never been there and I'd love to go," Zito said. "But it's also Florida Derby Day, so everything is up in the air at this point."
Dubai trip planned for Arson Squad
Arson Squad will be joining Anak Nakal on the March 17 flight to Dubai, trainer Rick Dutrow confirmed Thursday. Arson Squad also is nominated to next Saturday's Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap. Arson Squad finished fourth as the 2-1 favorite in the Donn.
"He just had a bad day in the Donn," Dutrow said. "The track played against him, and he bled pretty significantly after the race. But he's done really well since the race, breezed without medication, and scoped clean earlier this week, and if he does it again we'll send him to Dubai."
Dutrow said Edgar Prado, who rode Arson Squad to victory in the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup and also was aboard for the Donn, will handle the assignment again in Dubai. Arson Squad is one of two members of the Dutrow stable heading to Dubai. Kip Deville will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free.
Dutrow also said he's contemplating one of three races for This Ones for Phil's next start. This Ones for Phil, who earned a 116 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory in the Sunshine Millions Dash in his 3-year-old debut, finished a tiring fifth after setting a very fast pace in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.
"As long as he's okay, I'll bring him back in either the Swale, Bay Shore, or Illinois Derby," Dutrow said. "He probably didn't want to be on the lead, and the track did not favor speed, but it's likely he was just in too tough the other day. We have many options with him, but the Derby should be ruled out."
The Grade 2 Swale will be decided at seven furlongs here on the Florida Derby undercard March 28. The Grade 3 Bay Shore, also at seven furlongs, will be run at Aqueduct on April 4, the same day as the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby at Hawthorne.
Horseman unfazed by bankruptcy
Local horsemen seem unfazed by the announcement that track owner Magna Entertainment Corp. had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday.
"We'd been given a heads-up from track management that this was coming," trainer Tim Hills said. "What is transpiring with MEC is separate from the racing entity in a way that makes it comfortable for horsemen. In addition, our purse account is not connected to the track in any way. It's completely under the control of the Florida HBPA."
Leading trainer Ken McPeek said he was more concerned with what might happen in the long run at Gulfstream.
"I'm not worried one bit about this meet, but I do have long-term concerns should someone else eventually buy the place," McPeek said. "Although Frank [Stronach] may have overextended himself in general, I think he needs to be commended for some of the things he's accomplished here. Especially in regards to the conditions he's provided for the horsemen and the racing in general. I just hope it continues to be the same Gulfstream winter meeting if another party ultimately does assume control."
Another Derby prospect for Pletcher
Al Khali gave trainer Todd Pletcher another potential Kentucky Derby candidate after re-rallying to a three-quarter-length victory over longshot Stately Character in Friday's $42,000 allowance feature. Atomic Rain bore out badly after taking control into the stretch and finished another nose farther back in third.
Al Khali was originally purchased at the 2007 Keeneland yearling sale for $15,000 and began his career in Peru, where he won a pair of races last fall. The son of Medaglia d'Oro was subsequently bought privately by WinStar Farm and sent to Pletcher in November.
Al Khali came into his U.S. bow Friday off a series of sharp works, including a bullet five furlongs in 59.80 seconds at Palm Meadows on Sunday, and was good enough to win despite racing wide around the second turn and having to angle inside the drifting Atomic Rain near midstretch. John Velazquez rode Al Khali to victory.
"I think there's room for improvement and obviously he can handle a distance," Pletcher said. "We wanted to get him a race this weekend because that puts us in position to look for another spot, with everything being possible, on the weekends of April 4 and 11."
Well Positioned, who came into his 3-year-old campaign highly regarded off a 14-length maiden win in his juvenile finale, disappointed for the second time in as many starts this meet, finishing last in the scratch-reduced field of six.
* Dunkirk worked four furlongs in 48.60 seconds at Palm Meadows on Friday. It was his first work since his impressive 4 3/4-length entry-level allowance win here on Feb. 19. Dunkirk is scheduled to put his unblemished record on the line in the Grade 1 Florida Derby March 28.
* Apprentice jockey Jose Ortiz suffered a broken collarbone when his horse, Alota Uno, broke down during Thursday's seventh race. Ortiz, who has ridden seven winners here this winter, will be sidelined indefinitely.
* Julien Leparoux took off his mounts Friday due to illness. He was scheduled to fly to California on Friday evening to ride Einstein in Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap. Leparoux took over sole possession of the lead in the jockey standings after guiding first-time starter Hold My Calls to victory for trainer Eddie Kenneally in Thursday's nightcap.