07/19/2012 1:00PM

Delaware Park: Utley targets first stakes win in Sussex Stakes

Tom Keyser
Utley will seek his first stakes victory in Saturday's $100,000 Sussex at Delaware Park.

There’s little doubt that Utley possesses the pedigree to be a superior racehorse. A son of Smart Strike, Utley is a half-brother to Group 1 or Grade 1 winners Rainbow View and Just as Well, along with the Grade 3 winner Winning View. His dam, No Matter What, a daughter of the great Nureyev, won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on turf.

Utley’s connections, George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stable and trainer John Gosden, thought highly enough of Utley to bring him from Europe to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in 2010 and then shipped him all the way to Dubai for the $2 million UAE Derby in the spring of his 3-year-old season. He didn’t fare well in either race.

Now 4, Utley will attempt to collect his first stakes win in the $100,000 Sussex, one of two supporting stakes on a Saturday card at Delaware Park topped by the Grade 2, $750,000 Delaware Handicap.

Utley, now trained by Jonathan Sheppard, must overcome post 9 coming out of a chute in the 1 1/16-mile Sussex. He comes into the race off a confidence-building three-length score in a one-mile allowance restricted to nonwinners of three. Although the Beyer Speed Figure came back a modest 80, Utley came home his final quarter-mile in an impressive 23.08 seconds.

Utley displayed a similar effective closing kick winning a first-level allowance by a head in January at Gulfstream Park.

Utley’s most dangerous rival may be the horse who breaks just inside of him, Roman Tiger.

A 7-year-old gelding, Roman Tiger was sharp early this season in Florida, winning back-to-back stakes, including the Grade 3 Tampa Bay. He was a dull seventh six weeks ago in the Grade 2 Monmouth. In two previous trips to Delaware, Roman Tiger fell a half-length short as the runner-up in the Grade 3 Kent in 2008 and was second, beaten a head, in an optional $40,000 claimer.

The field also includes the 6-year-old Sleepless Knight, beaten less than a length as the runner-up in each of his last two starts, and Lentenor, a brother of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. The 5-year-old Lentenor finished two lengths behind Roman Tiger in the Tampa Bay Stakes and three lengths in back of Sleepless Knight in the Da Hoss at Colonial Downs.

◗ Dust and Diamonds, idle since scoring by 4 1/2 lengths in a second-level optional $35,000 claimer at Oaklawn Park in March, appears formidable in the $50,000 Dashing Beauty for fillies and mares going six furlongs (race 7). Her seven rivals include last-out winners Giant Sensation from the barn of Todd Pletcher and the Churchill Downs-based Always Here Too.