Updated on 09/15/2011 12:36PM

Donk has confidence in Sharp Performance


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Dave Donk was so impressed with Sharp Performance's effort in his last race, a victory in a first-level allowance on Belmont Stakes Day, he's taking a shot with his lightly raced colt, placing him among stakes winners in Sunday's $150,000 Lexington, a Grade 3, at Belmont Park.

Sharp Performance stormed home a two-length winner in that June 9 allowance, and ran the

1 1/4 miles in 2:00.56, slightly faster than the 2:00.77 set by multiple stakes winner Forbidden Apple, 90 minutes earlier in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap.

The 1 1/4-mile Lexington, for 3-year-old grass runners, drew nine runners.

Sharp Performance, a Kris S. colt, is a winner of two of three starts, all on grass. Both of his wins have come at Belmont.

"This is a step up in competition, but I would like to see where we are going to stand with him," Donk said. "I'm not running scared. I think he can compete with these horses. Johnny [Velazquez] likes him enough to ride him and that's the reason I'm running him here."

Sharp Performance, a stalker, drew post 5.

Sharp Performance's Lexington rivals include graded stakes winners Kalu, Strategic Partner, and Volponi. But the horse to beat might be Package Store, who like Sharp Performance, is seeking his first stakes win.

Trained by Tommy Skiffington, Package Store was an easy winner of his turf debut over older horses at Churchill Downs in April.

Package Store ran next in the Grade 3 Hill Prince on June 16, and the colt nearly pulled off an upset by finishing a close second to the favorite, Proud Man, who is skipping the Lexington.

"I got a tape of his race at Churchill and was really impressed," said Skiffington, who took over the training of Package Store in May. "I wasn't sure about the quality of horses in there, but when he breezed so good for me, I knew he was a really special horse. It's not the type of thing I usually do - running them in the deep end so early. I didn't expect the Hill Prince to come up so deep, but he proved he was of that quality."

Jerry Bailey, a four-time winner of the Lexington, picks up the mount on Package Store who drew post 3.

For the first time in his career, Kalu, the likely pacesetter, gets to compete at the track at which he has been training. This spring, Kalu won the Forerunner at Keeneland and Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby, before finishing fourth in his last start, the Jefferson Cup at Churchill on June 9.