07/20/2009 11:00PM

Delaware trip a tough one for Wolfson

Adam Coglianese
con Project, here romping in the New York Stakes at Belmont - her first start on dirt - wound up second in the Delaware Handicap. Her trainer, Marty Wolfson, has the filly pointed for the Personal Ensign at Saratoga.

MIAMI - For a handicapper, there's nothing more frustrating than a race not playing out as expected. So can you imagine how a trainer feels when the same thing happens in a race worth $1 million, like Sunday's Delaware Handicap.

You could still hear the frustration in trainer Marty Wolfson's voice as he recounted the Delaware Handicap and the second-place finish of his steadily improving Icon Project, who was beaten a length by the somewhat unexpected front-running winner Swift Temper.

"That was a heartbreaker," said Wolfson. "I could have won that race if it had set up as I figured it would."

Wolfson expressed puzzlement as to why jockey Richard Migliore "took back with Unbridled Belle."

"That left Swift Temper on the lead over a speed-favoring track, and she wound up going 14 and 4 for the first six furlongs. That was insane and took everything away from the finish. And to make matters worse, Unbridled Belle wound up putting me in a pocket on the turn. My horse could have been on the lead just as easily if I realized that would happen. In fact, I told my rider that I wanted to be in front if the pace was slow, but he took her back as well."

Icon Project was ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., who had guided the filly, a daughter of Empire Maker, to a 13-length victory in the Grade 3 New York Stakes four weeks earlier in the filly's first start on dirt. Wolfson said he plans to keep her on the main track for the time being and will point for the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 30.

Wolfson also has Grade 1 races at Saratoga picked out for two other members of his stable. First Passage, winner of the Grade 3 Azalea here earlier this month, will ship to the Spa to run in the Test on Aug. 8, while It's a Bird is headed for the Woodward on Sept. 5.

Wolfson will also be busy in the paddock here Saturday before the $75,000 Nancy's Glitter Handicap. Wolfson has entered four of the eight fillies and mares for the 1 1/16-mile Nancy's Glitter and said he could run as many as three of them.

"I'm definitely going to start Jessica Is Back," said Wolfson. "There isn't a lot of speed in there, and from the rail I think she will be able to control the pace. I also could start Wyatt's Woman and Miss Singhsix. I probably won't run Seaside Affair, because she'd just kill Jessica Is Back on the lead."

Mambo Meister in chess match

Another locally-based horse heading to Saratoga this week is Mambo Meister. Trainer Phil Gleaves said Mambo Meister will ship to the Spa on Thursday and is to be cross-entered the following Thursday for Saratoga's Grade 2 Fourstardave and Monmouth Park's Grade 3 Oceanport, both of which are scheduled to be run on Aug. 2.

"Right now we have not made a definite decision on which race we'll shoot for," said Gleaves. "I'm sure we'll be doing what a lot of other horses will do, cross-enter in both races and see how they come up."

Gleaves, who will join Mambo Meister at Saratoga this weekend, said his versatile colt will have one work over the Oklahoma training track before his next start.

Mambo Meister has won 2 of his 3 starts during the current session after returning from a minor injury sustained this winter at Gulfstream Park. Mambo Meister has won a pair of overnight stakes, one on turf and the other on dirt, following a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Miami Mile on April 25.

"There's nothing for him around here this summer, and I think he deserves at least one chance against graded stakes horses up north," said Gleaves.

Maiden races prove eventful

A pair of 2-year-old maiden special weight races on last Saturday's card may provide several contenders for the opening legs of the Florida Stallion series, the $100,000 Dr. Fager and Desert Vixen stakes, on Aug. 8. The races also kept the stewards plenty busy as there were disqualifications in both the open and filly splits of the 5 1/2-furlong dash.

In the open division, Gesu rallied to a 1 1/4-length decision over Our Masterpeace, although the runner-up was ultimately disqualified and placed fourth for interfering with Forty Nine Acres in late stretch. Hot Southern Magic, a 39-1 outsider, was eventually elevated to the second position.

Gesu, Our Masterpeace, and Forty Nine Acres are all nominated for the Stallion Stakes and may meet again in the six-furlong Dr. Fager. Gesu could help fill the void in the stallion series for trainer Joe Calascibetta, who recently sold top Stallion Stakes prospect, D' Funnybone.

Lovely Golda, a first-time starter by Montbrook, was first across the wire in the filly division but was disqualified and placed second behind runner-up Checkitoff after lugging in to impede that rival near midstretch. Both Lovely Golda and Checkitoff are Florida-breds, although only Lovely Golda is Stallion Stakes-eligible.

Leading rider Manoel Cruz rode both Gesu and Checkitoff to their victories.

Year's first win for rider

While Cruz continues to dominate the jockey standings, it was good to see colleague W.G. De'Oliveira post his first win of the year Saturday aboard Duke of Hazard for trainer Angel Medina. De'Oliveira, a mainstay on the local circuit, has ridden only 13 mounts in 2009.

* Jackson Bend, a leading candidate for the Dr. Fager, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 on Tuesday. Jackson Bend won the Frank Gomez Memorial Stakes in his most recent start.

* Construction will begin this week on the new Studz Poker Club, to be located on the first floor of the grandstand. The poker club is scheduled to open in late October featuring 29 tables offering Texas Hold'em, Omaha, and seven-card stud.