01/11/2010 1:00AM

Duke of Mischief handles surface switch


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer David Fawkes was hoping to use Sunday's $100,000 as a prep for the richer Sunshine Millions Turf here at Gulfstream Park later this month for Duke of Mischief. But after the Ft. Lauderdale came off the grass and Duke of Mischief rallied to a hard-fought neck decision over defending champion Kiss the Kid, Fawkes suddenly had a tougher choice on his hands.

"Now I don't know whether to run him back in the Sunshine Million Turf or take him out to California for the Classic," Fawkes said in the winner's circle after Duke of Mischief had registered his first victory since capturing the Iowa Derby on June 26.

The Ft. Lauderdale scratched down from 15 to just seven starters when it was switched from the turf and decided over a good main track. As a result of the surface change, the race will lose its Grade 3 status pending a review by the American Graded Stakes Committee.

Duke of Mischief took advantage of a track that favored outside closers throughout the card, rallying wide off the final bend under jockey Eibar Coa to engage the leaders in early stretch before outfinishing Kiss the Kid. Kiss the Kid, who won the 2009 Ft. Lauderdale on the grass by a neck, came three wide to gain a short lead from Mambo Meister leaving the bend and continued on gamely to the end. Mambo Meister, the 2-1 favorite, made a quick move to gain a short advantage leaving the backstretch, raced nearest the inside turning for home, and succumbed grudgingly, checking in another three-quarters of a length farther back in third.

The Ft. Lauderdale marked the first start for Duke of Mischief, a son of Graeme Hall, since his seventh-place finish as the 2-1 favorite in the Oklahoma Derby on Oct. 11.

"He entrapped during the race in Oklahoma and had throat surgery three days later," said Fawkes. "The outside posts were red hot all day and I was tickled that we had an outside post. Originally I wanted to get a race into him over the turf to help make a decision for the Sunshine Millions since the turf race is here. Now I'm up in the air. I think he'll like the tighter turns at Santa Anita and I think he'll handle the synthetic track since he handles the turf."

The $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream and the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita will both be run on Jan. 30.