Updated on 09/16/2011 7:31AM

Essence of Dubai gets another shot


ELMONT, N.Y. - In the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby, Essence of Dubai was one of the buzz horses on the Churchill Downs backstretch. So much so, that he went off the seventh choice at 10-1 in the 18-horse field.

Essence of Dubai failed to fire in the Derby, finishing ninth, 13 lengths behind War Emblem.

In the days leading up to Saturday's Belmont Stakes, Essence of Dubai appears to be the forgotten horse. Tom Albertrani, the assistant trainer for Saeed bin Suroor, has not been besieged with reporters like he was in Louisville.

"I don't know how much of a dark horse he is," Albertrani said after Essence of Dubai breezed five furlongs in 1:03.97 Tuesday at Belmont. "He's still a little bit up against it. Hopefully, the distance will help him, and hopefully, there'll be more pace."

Albertrani said the way Essence of Dubai ran in Dubai, coming from well off the pace to win the 10-furlong UAE Derby, and his pedigree, suggest that 12 furlongs is within his scope.

Albertrani confirmed that Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry would run in the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 15, while E Dubai would run in the $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont the same day.

"I think the Brooklyn is going to be a little softer spot for E Dubai, who is coming back off a long layoff," Albertrani said. "The other horse [Street Cry], there's no problem shipping him around."

E Dubai won two races at Belmont last summer, an entry-level allowance race and the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes.

It is expected that Jerry Bailey would go to Kentucky to ride Street Cry. Albertrani said no decision has been made on a rider for E Dubai.

Similar scenario, 10 years later

As with A.P. Indy in 1992, trainer Neil Drysdale is trying to win the Belmont Stakes with a colt who was forced to bypass the Kentucky Derby, skipped the Preakness Stakes, and then prepped for the Belmont with a victory in the Peter Pan Stakes. But although the parallels are similar, the circumstances with Sunday Break are not.

A.P. Indy missed the Derby because of a quarter crack. Sunday Break did not get into the Derby because too many horses entered, and he was excluded. A.P. Indy also was far more accomplished by this point in his career. He had won the Hollywood Futurity as a 2-year-old, and the Santa Anita Derby at 3. Sunday Break was third in the Wood Memorial before the Peter Pan.

In addition, Eddie Delahoussaye was Drysdale's main rider a decade ago, whereas Gary Stevens rides Sunday Break. Stevens is confident that Sunday Break can continue to progress and turn in a strong performance against War Emblem on Saturday. He said the Peter Pan was an ideal prep.

"He was awesome," Stevens said. "He wasn't blowing at all after the race. It was a good confidence builder. I was a little upset he didn't get into the Derby, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

"He's changed physically," Stevens added. "Neil says he has more muscles in his hindquarters. He's always been a little weak behind. He's a lot more powerful now. And he's a lot more focused mentally."

Groom rooting for a rerun

Danny Lopez, Sunday Break's groom, is hoping history repeats itself.

Lopez, 44, was the groom for A. P. Indy.

Lopez, a native of Mexico who has worked for Sunday Break's trainer, Neil Drysdale, since 1986, also was the groom for Drysdale's Breeders' Cup winners, War Chant and Prized.

"It'll be very fun for us if we can win [the Belmont]," Lopez said. "I hope I don't have a heart attack if we do."

McPeek learns from experience

Trainer Kenny McPeek was the only Kentucky-based horseman to send his Belmont Stakes starter to New York early, and on Tuesday morning he explained why he shipped Sarava to Belmont 10 days out.

"I ran Pineaff here in 1999 and he didn't handle the surface," said McPeek, whose horse finished ninth in the 12-horse field. "He came up here and really struggled. Every horse that came late struggled."

McPeek recalled that it had not rained for more than week leading up to the 1999 Belmont, won by locally based Lemon Drop Kid over locally based Vision and Verse.

"When this track gets real dry, it gets really deep and they have a hard time keeping water on it," said McPeek, who arrived in New York late Monday night after driving from Kentucky with his wife, Sue. "You're at a competitive disadvantage if it dries out. I'm not going to have any regrets. I need every edge with this horse."

Tuesday, McPeek watched Sarava breeze four furlongs in 48.66 seconds, and seemed happy how he has handled Belmont thus far.

"My exercise rider [Hanne Jorgensen] tells me he handles this surface better than he does Churchill," McPeek said.

McPeek said that Take Charge Lady, his multiple-stakes winning 3-year-old filly is under strong consideration for the Mother Goose Stakes on June 29. McPeek said he would probably give the filly most of the summer off after that and return in the fall for races such as the Gazelle, Spinster, and Breeders' Cup Distaff.

"If she were real impressive in the Mother Goose, I might be tempted to run in the Alabama," McPeek said of the Grade 1, 10-furlong race at Saratoga in August.

Xtra Heat gets 127 for Vagrancy

Xtra Heat, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2001, was assigned high weight of 127 pounds for Sunday's $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs. Trainer John Salzman confirmed Tuesday that Xtra Heat would accept the assignment and run in the Grade 2 race.

She will be conceding nine to 16 pounds to a small field expected to include Cat Cay (118), Shine Again (117), Gold Mover (115), La Galerie (113), and Rule Brittania (111). Celtic Melody (115) is listed as a possible runner.

"You hate to be carrying that much weight and giving away that much weight, but what are you going to do?" Salzman said. "The filly's good, I just don't know how good. And what is the straw that breaks the camel's back?"

Monday, Cat Cay drilled four furlongs in a bullet 46.08 seconds. Tuesday, Shine Again, who finished second behind Xtra Heat in the Genuine Risk, worked six furlongs in 1:14.43.

* Yonaguska, preparing for Saturday's $250,000 True North Breeders' Cup, worked Tuesday at Belmont in 38.43 seconds for three furlongs. The other expected starters in the True North are Explicit, Entepreneur, Late Carson, Summer Note, and Smile My Lord. Peeping Tom is possible. The Grade 2 True North, a six-furlong dirt race, was scheduled to be drawn Wednesday, with the rest of the Belmont Stakes card.

* Tuesday, Hap worked a half-mile in 49.61 seconds over Belmont's main track for Saturday's $400,000 Manhattan Handicap. The Grade 1 Manhattan, which is attracting an exceptional field, will be run at 1 1/4 miles on the turf. The other Manhattan probables are With Anticipation, Beat Hollow, Forbidden Apple, Strut the Stage, Blazing Fury, Slew the Red, Baptize, and Krombacher.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson and Jay Privman