09/07/2009 12:00AM

Gitano Hernando returning at Doncaster prepping for Diamond


Gitano Hernando, his trip to the Belmont Stakes canceled because of injury after his unlucky second-place finish in the Group 3 Dee Stakes at Chester on May 8, returns to action at Doncaster on Wednesday in a 1 1/4-mile, 60-yard conditions race as a prequel to a possible tilt at the Breeders' Cup Marathon.

"He wrenched an ankle after the Dee Stakes, and it took a long time for the swelling to go down," said Barry Irwin of Team Valor, which owns Gitano Hernando. "He's fine now, but the race couldn't have come up tougher."

In fact, the Frenchgate Conditions Stakes has group race cachet, with Twice Over, winner of the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam last year as well as third in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes and fourth in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes this year, the likely favorite.

Also in the six-runner field are last year's South African Derby winner, Kings Gambit; listed winner Sweet Lily, Serva Jugum, recently fourth in the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes; and Chock A Block, an allowance-winning son of Dalakhani and E.P Taylor winner Choc Ice.

Trained in Newmarket by Marco Botti, Gitano Hernando was purchased by Team Valor after his maiden score going 1 3/16 miles on the Wolverhampton Polytrack last fall. He won a handicap over the Frenchgate course and distance in March, but Irwin thinks he is better on synthetic surfaces. After Wednesday's race, this 3-year-old son of French Derby winner Hernando is scheduled to travel to Dundalk in Ireland for the Diamond Stakes, a 1 3/8-mile Group 3 Polytrack contest on Oct. 2 in which the winner receives an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Marathon, which has been upped in distance this year from 1 1/2 miles to 1 3/4 miles.