Updated on 09/16/2011 6:48AM

Hook and Ladder hard to go past


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - He has won four times in four starts at Gulfstream Park, is coming off a 3 1/4-length victory against a similar group here four weeks ago, and carries a mere 119 pounds, two fewer than assigned to maiden 3-year-old fillies in three races on the card.

About the only thing that could stop Hook and Ladder in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap would be if he somehow regressed off his powerful victory in last month's Mr. Prospector Handicap. But trainer John Kimmel thinks Hook and Ladder very well might move forward off his career-best 111 Beyer Speed Figure.

"Whatever he ran last time, I don't think it was a getting-to-the-bottom type of race," Kimmel said Friday morning from Payson Park, where he is based during the winter. "He's been coming off the track squealing and bouncing. I've got a lot of confidence in him. I think he can take his game up a notch."

He's already got game. Hook and Ladder is one of the best sprinters on the East Coast, but a series of foot problems have provided potholes on his road to glory. Kimmel said that the chronic quarter cracks to the inside of Hook and Ladder's right front foot have benefited greatly by training at Payson Park, and that has translated into a series of sharp performances at Gulfstream Park.

"He does so well at Payson. His feet are so comfortable," Kimmel said. "It's not so much that he likes Gulfstream as it is benefiting from the day-in, day-out training at Payson. He's a happy camper."

Hook and Ladder will break from post 5 in a nine-horse field.

Both Kipperscope and Red's Honor, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Mr. Prospector, are back again, but the main threats to Hook and Ladder should be California invader Explicit and Calder specialist Fappie's Notebook.

Explicit, beaten twice this winter at Santa Anita, is being wheeled back on two weeks' rest and is shipping across the country in an attempt to impress the powers that be in Dubai. Trainer Ian Jory and owner Marvin Malmuth want Explicit to run in next month's $2 million Golden Shaheen, and think Explicit needs a top performance to get an invitation.

"Financially, he'd be better off running in a three-other-than at Santa Anita, but we're trying to get to Dubai," Jory said Friday from his base at Hollywood Park.

Explicit arrived here Friday. He is a winner over this track, having captured an allowance race last year. In that race, Explicit got a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 118.

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