02/01/2012 1:47PM

Gulfstream: Grade 1-placed Associate awaits Emcee in allowance sprint

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin could have cursed his luck when picking up the overnight and seeing he had caught the Grade 1-placed Associate with his undefeated, talented but relatively inexperienced Emcee in Friday’s ninth race at Gulfstream Park. Instead McLaughlin took the high road when it came to the surprisingly loaded entry-level allowance dash.

“I’m not really concerned who is in there,” said McLaughlin. “He [Emcee] needs to run and they have him to beat whoever shows up.”

Under normal circumstances, Emcee, coming off an extremely impressive debut performance, would figure to be an odds-on favorite stepping into a first-level allowance race for older horses. Emcee cruised to an easy 4 1/2-length maiden special weight triumph going six furlongs at Belmont Park on Sept. 14, earning a 94 Beyer Speed Figure while winning with something left. But Associate has already eclipsed that number twice and is Grade 1 placed, having finished third to close out his 3-year-old campaign in Santa Anita’s Malibu on Dec. 26.

“I think this colt is a stakes horse,” said McLaughlin, who trains Emcee, a homebred son of Unbridled’s Song, for Darley Stable. “We actually had him in the entries at Saratoga as a 2-year-old but he walked out lame and ended up needing time off, although no surgery. He ran huge in his only start, had a few little issues after the race but is doing great now. At the moment we have no plans for him beyond this race and if we get beat by [Richard] Dutrow’s horse, we’ll just go back in another `a other than’.”

Associate has flourished since switching to dirt after being haltered by Dutrow for $35,000 last July at Saratoga. Associate posted a pair of one-sided victories going seven furlong in New York, earning Beyers of 104 and 97 in the process, before shipping to Santa Anita for the Malibu, where he had his best chances compromised by a slow start.

“I thought he ran big in California,” said Dutrow. “The start kind of cost him. I don’t think he really wants to be dead last but that’s where he was and he sorted things out nicely from there. He has a much better post on Friday. The timing is good for this race, about 45 days, and he still has all kinds of allowance conditions. I didn’t want to rush him back and go right into a stakes like the Gulfstream Park Sprint.”

Dutrow said he’s also pleased by the way both Redeemed and Trickmeister are training up to the Grade 1 Donn on Feb. 11. Redeemed breezed a very strong six furlongs in 1:12.40, galloped out seven eighths in 1:25.60, and pulled up a mile in 1:41 and change with jockey Edgar Prado aboard here Wednesday. Trickmeister worked the same distance in the exact same time on Tuesday.

The Donn closed with 14 nominations. Along with Redeemed and Trickmeister, the strong field is also expected to include Ruler On Ice, Shackleford, Soaring Empire, Flat Out, Where’s Sterling, and Mission Impazible.