02/21/2009 12:00AM

Beethoven closes fast in five-furlong work

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Now that's more like it.

After barely shading 1:05 for five furlongs in a workout here last Sunday, Beethoven looked more like the horse who won the Gradeo2 Kentucky Jockey Club in his 2-year-old finale when he came right back and breezed the same distance in 1:01.65 on Friday morning.

With regular rider Calvin Borel aboard, Beethoven broke off at a leisurely pace before finishing full of run when roused nearing midstretch, ran his final furlong in 11.37 seconds, and galloped out another eighth-mile around the turn in 11.87. Borel was not here when Beethoven worked on Sunday.

"He really kicked hard when Calvin asked him to run," said trainer John Ward Jr. "He finished like one of those babies in the 2-year-old in training sales."

Ward said he brought Beethoven back on short rest partly because Borel was in town to ride a couple of horses for trainer Ian Wilkes, including Miss Isella in Friday's Grade 3 Sabin.

"I took the opportunity to work him today because Calvin was here, and since he really didn't do much in his last work," Ward explained. "That's it for him now. Practice is over. That's all we can do before the race."

The race Ward refers to is next Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. The one-mile fixture is the final major local prep for the Grade 1 Florida Derby on Marcho28, and it is expected to bring together the deepest field of 3-year-olds of any of the Derby preps around the country thus far this winter.

"From the looks of the field, they should go really fast early, and if they go the first three-quarters in 1:10 or less, it will make our situation a lot easier," said Ward. "Naturally, we'd like to win, and I'd love to make a little more graded money, but what I'm looking for first is a good performance. To see him closing at the end of it. It's really a pivotal race for us, like a hub on a wheel, because if he runs well in the Fountain of Youth we can go to pretty much any other prep we want before the Derby."

Beethoven will be part of a Fountain of Youth field that likely will also include Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes winner Capt. Candyman Can, Spectacular Bid winner Notonthesamepage, Sunshine Millions Dash winner This Ones for Phil, Quality Road, Theregoesjojo, the undefeated Taqarub, Grade 3 winner Break Water Edison, Salo Jak, and Jack Spratt.

Dunkirk generates buzz

Dunkirk's performance in Thursday's allowance feature was still the talk of the backstretch the following morning. Dunkirk overcame early adversity and dominated a strong field, winning by nearly five lengths for his second easy win in as many starts.

"Calvin was second in the race, and he told me this morning he got beat by a very nice horse," said Ward.

Borel finished second aboard the previously unbeaten Warrior's Reward in Thursday's main event.

One horse who did not run his best race on Thursday was Alma d'Oro, the second betting choice behind Dunkirk who was exiting a well-graded one-mile maiden win earlier in the meet. Alma d'Oro set much of the early pace but had little left once challenged by Dunkirk approaching the stretch, fading steadily to finish a disappointing fifth nearly a dozen lengths behind the winner.

"He cooled out fine and scoped clean after the race," said trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. "We just didn't have him right for the race. It wasn't his fault. He was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. We'll just have to regroup, work on him a little bit, and get him right again before we can figure out what to do next. He's too talented a horse to give up on off just one race."

Take the Points off to Santa Anita

Trainer Todd Pletcher has opted to bypass the Fountain of Youth next weekend with another of his Derby hopefuls, Take the Points, in favor of Santa Anita's Grade 3 Sham the same afternoon. Take the Points was an impressive allowance winner going a mile here earlier in the meet.

"Right now we're seriously considering the Sham as long as we can make the proper travel arrangements," said Pletcher. "There are plenty of arguments why it's the best spot for this horse, including the timing, the fact that it's around two turns, and the field doesn't appear to be coming up all that tough out there."

Frolic's Dream looking good

If first impressions are any indication, trainer Barclay Tagg is just going to love the newest addition to his barn, the Grade 2 winner Frolic's Dream, who was purchased privately by the Lael Stable and turned over to Tagg on Thursday.

"The filly hadn't arrived yet when I left the track after the races on Thursday," said Tagg. "But when I came back around 9:30 that night to check on the horses as I regularly do, she was curled up in the center of her stall fast asleep. Which is a very good sign."

Tagg said he would take a look at the Grade 2 Davona Dale, for which Frolic's Dream had already been nominated by her previous connections, at a mile on March 1.

"Who knows if she'll go a mile or not, but she likes the track so that's a plus," said Tagg.

Campos rides his first winner

Apprentice jockey Ares Campos landed the first winner of his career - the longshot Gary's Boomer for trainer Manuel Azpurua in Thursday's sixth race. An 18-year-old native of Puebla, Mexico, Campos began galloping horses at Saratoga two years ago and also worked as an exercise rider for Pletcher in New Jersey.

"This is a special day for me," Campos said just before getting the traditional dousing from his fellow riders. "To be able to say I'm competing against the best jockeys in the world as an apprentice is a dream come true."

Campos wasted little time getting his second win when guiding La Tetanic ($16) to a wire-to-wire tally in Friday's third race.

* The popular jockey poster signing will be held for the second time this winter on Sunday from noon to 12:45 p.m. in the paddock. All of the track's leading riders will be on hand to autograph their photos on the 2009 edition of the Gulfstream Park jockey poster.