04/09/2008 12:00AM

Idaho snow rejuvenated Doppio

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ARCADIA, Calif. - By way of California and Idaho, Doppio will have a most unlikely homecoming when he starts in Saturday's $400,000 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes at Keeneland. A 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding, Doppio has overcome a severe tendon injury in 2005 that very nearly led to his retirement, and will make his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Commonwealth in search of the ninth win of his 16-race career.

The key to the comeback - a restful year spent in a snowy Idaho pasture that helped Doppio recover from the injury and return to racing.

Owner Keith Brackpool and trainer Carla Gaines had high expectations for Doppio at the start of his career in 2004, and in his first two starts he finished third and then second in a pair of maiden special weight races at Hollywood Park. Doppio suffered the tendon injury during a last-place finish in a maiden race at Santa Anita in January 2005. Gaines assessed the situation, and admits that she gave up, advising Brackpool that the horse, then 3, should be retired.

A son of Gentlemen, Doppio was sent to a ranch near Santa Anita, with the expectation that he be sent to another farm for a permanent retirement. But Gaines suggested that Doppio be sent to trainer Mike Chambers's Idaho farm in the hope that he might recover, and Brackpool agreed to the plan.

"I wanted to give the horse away, to be honest," Gaines said. "I told Keith, 'We can put him out in the snow in Idaho for $10 a day.' The day he was going to go on the van to a new home, Keith said, 'Let's try it.' "

Doppio's year without strenuous exercise, along with the inflammation-reducing benefits of standing in snow through the winter, helped to heal the tendon, Gaines said.

"He was never meant to run again," Brackpool said. "We sent him up there for the year believing that there was a 5 percent chance maximum of him recovering. Boy, did he recover. It's been extraordinary."

"Mother Nature took care of it," Gaines said. "It was the only option we had."

Doppio went back into training in early 2006, and won 4 of 5 starts that year, including a $32,000 claiming race for maidens in his comeback in late June and a first-condition allowance race in November. That alone left Gaines and Brackpool satisfied.

Doppio's 2007 campaign was curtailed by a bone chip in an ankle, but included 2 wins in 5 starts. This year, Doppio has won both his starts, an optional claimer on Feb. 13 and another optional claimer March 10. He was eligible to be claimed for $100,000 from his last race. In his 15-race career, he could have been claimed from five races, and he has never been taken. No one has seemed interested in claiming a gelding with a record of injuries.

Brackpool and Gaines chose to run Doppio in the Commonwealth rather than the $200,000 Potrero Grande Handicap at Santa Anita last Saturday. The seven-furlong Commonwealth will be Doppio's first start outside of California.

"Keith wanted to go to Keeneland," Gaines said. "He's a big racing enthusiast and it sounded like a fun thing to do, to run against sprinters back east as opposed to a $200,000 race against the best sprinters on the West Coast. It's a synthetic track and he seems to relish those surfaces."

In Gaines, Doppio has a trainer who is among the hottest in the country. She had won 12 races from her last 17 starters through Wednesday, including wins with six consecutive starters from March 31 through last Saturday and with three consecutive starters on Sunday and Monday. Gaines swept Santa Anita's two stakes on Sunday with the full sisters Tiz a Blend in the Valentine Dancer Handicap and Tiz Elemental in the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap.

Brackpool, 50, who emigrated from England in 1983, is the chief executive officer of Cadiz, a Los Angeles land and water resource company. He considers Doppio the best horse he has owned since Elbio, a multiple-stakes-winning sprinter in Europe in the early 1990s. Elbio ran fifth behind Thirty Slews in the 1992 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Gulfstream Park.

"Sixty horses later, I've got another group horse," he said.

"I think he's a better horse this year than he was before," Brackpool said of Doppio. "He's won everywhere we put him, basically. Why not give him a chance?"

It's all because of a year spent playing in the snow.