04/24/2013 2:33PM

Belmont Park: Purple Egg may use Trippi as springboard to Woody Stephens

Tom Keyser
Purple Egg will return to sprinting when he makes his first start since the Tampa Bay Derby in Friday's seven-furlong Trippi for 3-year-olds.

ELMONT, N.Y. – When trainer Jane Cibelli looks back at 2013, she will always cringe when recalling her decision to run Purple Egg in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby.

Illness prevented Purple Egg from making a couple of starts before that race, thus he went into the two-turn, 1 1/16-mile heat against Verrazano off a three-month layoff having never run beyond six furlongs. He finished last, beaten 28 lengths.

“Sometimes you do things and you look back and say ‘Why did I do that?,’ ” said Cibelli, who noted that Purple Egg displaced his palate in the race.

Friday, Purple Egg starts fresh when he faces five rivals in the $85,000 Trippi Stakes, the opening-day feature on a 10-race card at Belmont Park. The Trippi, restricted to 3-year-olds, is run at seven furlongs and could be a prep for the Woody Stephens at Belmont on June 8.

Purple Egg, a gelding by Lion Heart, won his first three races – all sprints – including the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa on Dec. 1. While Cibelli had a plan to get to the Tampa Derby, she couldn’t execute it.

“We were trying to get to the Gulfstream Derby in January and he got sick,” Cibelli said. “We were going to run in the Pasco [at Tampa] and he got sick again. That took the Sam Davis out. We’ve been playing catch-up ever since. So now we’re taking a step back.”

Purple Egg shows two works at Tampa, and Cibelli said that Purple Egg worked four furlongs in 47.40 seconds on April 21 at Monmouth but the track had not yet employed its clockers, so it was not recorded.

Purple Egg is nicely drawn in post 5 under Jose Lezcano in the six-horse field, with plenty of speed inside of him including Whiskey Romeo, Rubysandpearls, and Glowing Ember.

“I like the post. There is enough speed to set it up for him,” said Cibelli, who is 0 for 17 in her career at Belmont Park. “It’s not 21, 45 speed. He’ll be a couple off lengths off the lead.”

Whiskey Romeo won the first three starts of his career before fading to sixth in the Fred “Cappy” Capossela at Aqueduct on March 9. That race came off a three-month layoff after Whiskey Romeo stepped on himself winning the Marylander Stakes.

“I think he just got tired in the Capossela,” trainer Tony Dutrow said. “He went into it good, came out of it good. I don’t know what he’s running against, but he’s ready to run his very best race.”

Glowing Ember is a New York-bred son of Ember who has won two straight. Rubysandpearls won the Java Gold before finishing last in the Capossela. New Line won a two-turn maiden race at Tampa on March 9. Primary Focus was just claimed for $12,500 and appears to have helped fill the race.