03/11/2011 3:48PM

Breeders' Cup still on horizon for Furthest Land

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Barbara D. Livingston
Furthest Land, Julen Leparoux up, comes back from a layoff with a victory at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Furthest Land gave trainer Mike Maker some indication he might be returning to his Breeders’ Cup-winning form when he opened his 2011 campaign with a game optional claiming and allowance win on the turf here earlier in the meet. Maker will be looking for a further clue the hero of the 2009 Dirt Mile is heading in the right direction when he starts among the favorites in Sunday’s fifth race, a one-mile allowance event that has attracted a stakes-caliber field.

Furthest Land finished off the board in four subsequent starts following his three-quarter-length victory over Readys Echo in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup. Included among those outings was a disappointing performance in last year’s Dubai World Cup, a race that for all intents and purposes ended his 2010 campaign.

“The trip there and back just knocked him out,” said Maker, who trains Furthest Land for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. “He came back looking well, but training-wise I noticed a little difference. Like he was just going through the motions, and that’s kind of how he ran in his next start. So we gave him a break, and it looks from his first race this winter that he’s back on track.”

Furthest Land will be using Sunday’s race a stepping-stone to his first major goal this season, the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland on April 15.

Maker said his main concern Sunday is the lack of speed in the field. Furthest Land, who does his best running from off the pace, rallied from last to beat Baltimore Bob by a neck in his 2011 debut.

“It looks like Dutrow’s horse is the only speed horse in the field,” said Maker, referring to the Rick Dutrow-trained National Kid. “Naturally we’d like to win this race, but the main goal Sunday is to get him ready for the Maker’s Mark.”

Another horse on the comeback trail in Sunday’s fifth race is Cherokee Artist who finished third, a length behind Furthest Land, when the pair met on Feb. 12. Cherokee Artist was graded stakes placed on the grass here last winter but did not run up to trainer Graham Motion’s expectations during the latter third of 2010.

“Clearly his form tailed off late last year and he needed a break,” said Motion. “I have no explanation for why he lost his form, so we just freshened him up, and I thought he ran super the first time back this winter.”

Lopez nearing return to saddle

Jockey Paco Lopez could return to action on Wednesday his agent, Cory Moran, confirmed on Friday.

Lopez has not ridden since suffering a chip in his elbow and other assorted injuries in a spill just past the finish line following the end of the sixth race here on Feb. 18.

Moran said Lopez, who held a commanding lead in the jockey standings at the time of the accident, has been undergoing therapy three times a week and will return to his doctor next Tuesday with the hope of being given clearance to resume riding. He said Lopez will give his injured arm a serious test when he works the stakes-winning turf sprinter Little Nick on Sunday morning at Calder.

“Paco is anxious to get back riding again,” said Moran. “The chip isn’t the issue, it’s the ligament damage that has kept him on the sidelines not the bone. I’m going to start him back slowly, take just a few calls for Wednesday and Thursday and he’ll ride if those races fill and he is able to get clearance from his doctor.”

Pomeroy’s Pistol gets breather

Trainer Amy Tarrant said she gave her graded stakes winning 3-year-old filly Pomeroy’s Pistol a little break following her third-place finish behind R Heat Lightning in the Grade 2 Davona Dale on Feb. 26. Pomeroy’s Pistol upset the odds-on favorite, Dancinginherdreams with Lopez aboard one month earlier in the Grade 2 Forward Gal.

“I sent her to my farm in Ocala and she’s having a ball,” said Tarrant who also owns and bred Pomeroy’s Pistol. “She has had three hard races in a row and deserves a little rest.”

Tarrant said she has nominated Pomeroy’s Pistol to the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland on April 9 but will likely pass the race in lieu of the seven furlong Beaumont eight days later.

◗ Amazing, game runner-up behind Evening Jewel in the Sunshine Millions Dash, returned locally to dominate Friday’s featured fourth race for jockey Luis Saez and trainer Marty Wolfson. In her wake was the much-publicized Chilean bred mare Belle Watling, who disappointed for the second time in as many U.S. starts, finishing a distant third after prompting the winner’s pace into the stretch.

Amazing is likely return in the Grade 3 Rampart on April 2.