07/18/2009 11:00PM

Icon Project getting another dirt test

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Adam Coglianese
Icon Project wins the New York Stakes, her first dirt start, in the mud.

What do you do with a 4-year-old filly based in Florida who had modest success while running the first eight races of her career on turf, then jumped up 15 points on the Beyer Speed Figure scale while winning a Grade 3 stakes contested in the mud?

If you're trainer Marty Wolfson, you head to Delaware Park in quest of a $1 million purse, to find out whether Icon Project's 106 Beyer Figure and 13 1/4-length win in the off-the-turf New York Stakes was a fluke or if she is truly a much better filly racing on dirt.

The answer should come when Icon Project tackles six other fillies and mares, including probable favorite Unbridled Belle, in Sunday's Grade 2 Delaware Handicap.

The 1 1/4-mile Delaware Handicap is one of three stakes on a 12-race card that also includes the Grade 3, $150,000 Barbaro for 3-year-olds. The Del Cap winner earns an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic on Nov. 6.

Wolfson said he has been eager for some time to see what Icon Project, a daughter of Empire Maker out of a Lord at War mare, could do on dirt. She was transferred to Wolfson's Calder barn after going 1 for 5 on turf in England and France as a 3-year-old last season.

"She came over here as a grass filly with a dirt pedigree," said Wolfson. "I have been dying to run her on the dirt since she got over here, because her workouts are so good on the dirt."

Icon Project should have no trouble with the 10-furlong distance. She won going 1 1/2 miles in Britain and was a rallying third at that same distance in the Grade 2 La Prevoyante in April.

The Todd Pletcher-trained Unbridled Belle will seek to become the sixth two-time winner of the Del Cap. She won two years ago and was third as the 2-1 favorite last year after acting up in the paddock.

"She got very hot and she just was not herself," said Pletcher, who is seeking a record-tying fourth win in the race. "She froze up in the paddock and did not behave very well, which is very much out of character for her. In spite of that, she still ran a very competitive race, but we thought it might have compromised her chances a little bit."

Kentucky shipper Acoma looks dangerous. She has won 4 of her last 5 starts, including the Grade 3 Azeri on dirt and the Grade 3 Mint Julep on turf last time out.

The Mint Julep has turned out to be a key race. Runner-up Pure Clan and fifth-place finisher Closeout both came back to win Grade 3 stakes with identical 95 Beyers.

Trainer David Carroll chose to ship Acoma east for the Delaware Handicap rather than keep her on turf, where she is 3 for 3, for the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington on Aug. 8.

Another Kentucky-based horse, Swift Temper, has been solid at the Grade 3 level, winning three stakes since last August. Trained by Dale Romans, she stepped up last time to earn a career-best 101 Beyer for her close second in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill.

Temple Street, a former $15,000 claimer who rallied from far back to miss by less than a length in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff, gets a shot at her first stakes win after running third, 4 1/2 lengths behind Swift Temper, in the Fleur de Lis.

"Every time you claim one for $15,000, it is very rare you will even compete for $20,000 or $25,000, and now to be in a spot where we are running in a million-dollar race is really incredible," said Brad Cox, who plucked Temple Street out of a nonwinners-of-three claimer last November. "Her last race validates that her second-place finish in the Grade 1 was not a fluke. I definitely think she can compete."