12/01/2011 5:06PM

Gulfstream: Ancient Rome looks ready for the next step

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Tom Keyser
Vexor, with David Cohen riding, wins the Nashua.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Anthony Dutrow can be a man of few words when asked to talk about his horses. Unless he really likes one.

Handicappers can therefore draw their own conclusions from the fact Dutrow had a lot to say about Ancient Rome, who will be among the favorites in Saturday’s opening-day feature at Gulfstream Park, the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes. A field of eight 2-year-olds will contest the Spectacular Bid, including Nashua winner Vexor and the undefeated Luke of York.

Ancient Rome made his first two starts at Delaware Park, finishing second after contesting the pace in his debut before running away to an impressive and well graded 7 3/4-length maiden special weight victory on Oct. 22.

“So far we’re very, very happy with him, and he’s leading us to believe that he can take this kind of race on,” said Dutrow, who won the 2010 Spectacular Bid with A Little Warm. “I don’t really do a great deal with any of my first-time starters, and he probably went out there about 75-percent ready to run the first time. I was very impressed with his race that day and have no excuses for him losing other than he got a little tired and was beaten by a nice colt of Larry Jones’s. He trained really fantastic for his next start and broke his maiden the right way the second time.”

Dutrow doesn’t think Ancient Rome’s lack of experience will hurt him any when he makes his stakes debut against more seasoned youngsters in the Spectacular Bid.

[MORE: Full coverage of the Saturday card from Gulfstream Park]

“He’s continued to go forward since he got down to Palm Meadows, and I don’t think he needs any more practices,” said Dutrow. “I don’t know how he’ll run Saturday, but if he loses, I don’t think it will be because of inexperience. I’m feeling good about our boy running professionally in the Spectacular Bid, and we’ll definitely give him a chance to go longer after this one. I’m really looking forward to stretching him out at 3.”

Vexor has been an inconsistent sort thus far this season although most of his inconsistency has been because of his dislike for wet racetracks according to trainer John Kimmel. Vexor, a son of Wildcat Heir, won the Grace 2 Nashua over a good track at Belmont Park and posted his maiden victory on a fast track at Saratoga earlier this summer. He also finished a distant eighth in the Grade 1 Hopeful decided over a sloppy surface and more recently ninth over another “good” track in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint.

“He’s a horse that has a particular dislike for an ‘off’ racetrack,” said Kimmel. “In the Hopeful and Breeders’ Cup he didn’t even try. It’s unfortunate. His races on either side of those races over fast tracks were all good.”

Vexor is expected to set the pace in the Spectacular Bid. A fast pace will enhance the chances of the stretch running Luke of York, who has rallied from near the rear of the pack to register nose victories in each of his first two career outings including Keeneland’s 75th Anniversary Stakes on Oct. 15. The Spectacular Bid will be Vexor’s first start on conventional dirt.

“He’s a game horse who doesn’t like other horses to pass him,” said Luke of York’s trainer James DiVito. “You’ll never know how he’ll handle a new surface but he’s been training well on dirt so hopefully he’ll run well on it too.”

Town Prize, like Vexor, brings a strong record on artificial surfaces into the Spectacular Bid having opened his career winning two of three starts at Woodbine.

For Oby, winner of Calder’s Jack Price Juvenile, Jordan’s Image, Rex’s Last Tour and Blings Express complete the lineup.

Spectacular Bid Stakes, Post Time: 4:33 ET Saturday

Purse: $100,000; 6 furlongs

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Jordan's Image

A. Quiroz

D. Centeno

8-1

1

Rex's Last Tour

B. Rose

F. Jara

20-1

1

Vexor

J. Kimmel

J. Castellano

3-1

1

Blings Express

T. Hamm

P. Lopez

10-1

1

Luke of York

J. DeVito

R. Maragh

5-2

1

For Oby

P. Maestre

J. Garcia

6-1

1

Ancient Rome

A. Dutrow

J. Rocco, Jr.

4-1

1

Town Prize

D. Banach

L. Saez

6-1