02/05/2014 2:07PM

Gulfstream Park: Uncaptured, Neck 'n Neck look to upset Donn Handicap

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Michael Burns
Uncaptured, shown winning the Prince of Wales Stakes last summer, will try for his first Grade 1 victory Sunday in the Donn Handicap.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Uncaptured and Neck ’n Neck will be among the outsiders going up against the likes of Will Take Charge, Revolutionary, Lea, and River Seven in the Donn Handicap, but trainers Mark Casse and Ian Wilkes are looking forward to giving their horses another opportunity to become Grade 1 winners here Sunday.

Neither Uncaptured nor Neck ’n Neck proved a match for Lea going a mile in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope last month. Uncaptured, briefly on the Kentucky Derby trail last season, surpassed the $1 million mark in lifetime earnings during the fall and became a Grade 2 winner early in his career by capturing the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in his 2-year-old finale.

The Donn will mark Uncaptured’s second try against Grade 1 competition. His first ended in a 10th-place finish in the 2013 Blue Grass Stakes.

“He doesn’t have a whole lot more to accomplish; he’s already won over $1 million and is a Grade 2 winner,” said Casse, who trains Uncaptured for owner John Oxley. “The only thing lacking on his résumé is a Grade 1 win. He’s been training well, so we figured nothing ventured, nothing gained, and there’s a whole lot of upswing for him if he can win this thing.”

Casse said the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Donn should benefit Uncaptured, who has run a mile in each of his last two starts.

“As he’s gotten older, he’s lost a little bit of his speed,” Casse said. “It’s a little harder for him to keep up early in races at a mile. I was surprised he was so far back in the Hal’s Hope, but he was wide and made a good move to finish” fourth.

Miguel Mena, Uncaptured’s regular rider throughout most of his career, will be in town to handle the assignment in the Donn.

[Donn Handicap: Get PPs, watch Sunday's card live]

Neck ’n Neck will be making his fourth start since returning from a long layoff due to a fractured sesamoid suffered when training up to the Grade 1 Clark during the fall of 2012. Neck ’n Neck, a three-time graded stakes winner, finished a neck in front of Uncaptured when third in the Hal’s Hope. His only two previous Grade 1 appearances came at age 3 in 2012, when he finished fifth in the Florida Derby and sixth in the Travers.

“I think this horse has needed some racing to get back in form,” Wilkes said. “Missing that year really hurt him. As long as he keeps moving forward, that’s all I can ask. I don’t think we’ve seen him at his peak yet, so it’s worth giving him a shot, and if he can get lucky and win a race like the Donn, it looks awful good on his résumé.”

A field of 10 is expected to enter the Donn, topped by Will Take Charge, who arrived from his winter home at Oaklawn Park on Tuesday and went to the track for the first time Wednesday. Bourbon Courage, Romansh, Joshua’s Comprise, and Viramundo also figure to run.

[Clocker Reports: Get Mike Welsch’s clocker reports from Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows]

◗ As of Wednesday, only six horses were confirmed for Sunday’s Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. Boisterous will go postward as the highweight under 119 pounds, with Amira’s Prince, Summer Front, Imagining, Nikki’s Sandcastle, and Lochte also expected to run. Charming Kitten, Speaking of Which, and Tetradrachm were listed as possible starters by stakes coordinator Kevin Meyocks.