03/05/2009 1:00AM

Jerkens puts his faith in Formidable's talent

Email

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Allen Jerkens already has two Gulfstream Park Handicap trophies on his mantelpiece. He will look to add to that collection next Saturday when his speedy but relatively inexperienced Formidable makes his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Handicap, which has been shortened to a mile for the first time.

Formidable did not begin his career until September of his 3-year-old campaign and was a bit slow to come around at first due to foot issues. A homebred son of Sky Mesa who is owned by Robert Clay, Formidable couldn't have been more impressive since shipping to south Florida for the winter. He captured his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths on Jan. 9 before returning to defeat first-level allowance opposition even more easily five weeks later.

"We'll take a chance in the Gulfstream Park Handicap and see if he can do it," Jerkens said while sitting astride his stable pony and holding court at the three-furlong gap near the end of training hours on Thursday. "It's a big order but sometimes you wait for a horse to go through all his conditions and by that time he's not as good any more."

Although Formidable has yet to win beyond seven furlongs, Jerkens said he believes the added distance of the Gulfstream Handicap should pose no problem.

"He's bred to go longer, and with so many other handicap races for older horses scheduled around the country over the next couple of weeks, this one may not be coming up as tough as it could have, although there are going to be enough good ones in there," said Jerkens.

Jerkens, who won his first Gulfstream Handicap 30 years ago with Sensitive Prince and his second in 1993 with Devil His Due, also admitted he is looking a bit down the road with Formidable toward the prestigious Met Mile.

"You always think about a race like the Met Mile," said Jerkens. "I think I've run more horses in that race than anyone, although I've won it only once. And when I did it was by an inch with Tunex. I have finished second in the race about five times. My son Jimmy beat me just a couple of years ago with Corinthian."

The Jimmy Jerkens-trained Corinthian used a victory in the 2007 Gulfstream Park Handicap as a springboard to a three-quarter-length decision over the elder Jerkens-trained Political Force later that spring in the Grade 1 Met Mile.

Jerkens, 79, who underwent surgery to repair two heart valves in October, said he plans to stay around south Florida a little longer than usual this year.

"I'm just starting to feel good after the operation, so I'll take advantage of the warm weather and stay here until around the 15th of April, although I will probably start sending some horses back north around the first," said Jerkens.

Delightful Kiss won't go to Dubai

Trainer Pete Anderson said he is not sending Delightful Kiss to Dubai to compete on World Cup Day. Delightful Kiss had received an invitation to run in the Godolphin Mile.

"He didn't come back exactly right from his last start and I just don't think I can have him 100 percent for Dubai," said Anderson.

Delightful Kiss, who won the Grade 3 Hal's Hope here on Jan. 3, was 10th in last Saturday's Grade 3 Canadian Turf.

"He cooled out fine after the race and was all right Sunday, but I didn't like the way his ankle looked on Monday morning," said Anderson. "I took some pictures, which were negative, and I'm going to ultrasound him on Friday just to be sure. He's a handful right now and probably about 95 percent better, but it's a long year and he's been too good to me to put him on a plane and subject him to the chance he might not be able to give a 100 percent performance in Dubai."

Nicanor set for second start

Nicanor, Barbaro's much-hyped baby brother, will make the second start of his career in Saturday's eighth race, a seven-furlong maiden special weight event for 3-year-olds.

Nicanor, a son of Dynaformer, stumbled at the break and finished far back when launching his career at a mile on Jan. 31. Trainer Michael Matz said his horse had grabbed a quarter at the start.

Pair of Derby prospects work

Kentucky Derby hopefuls West Side Bernie and Nowhere to Hide both worked five furlongs at Palm Meadows on Thursday. West Side Bernie covered the distance in 1:00.40, while Nowhere to Hide earned the bullet for the morning by going in 1:00.

Trainer Kelly Breen said West Side Bernie would start next in either the Lane's End at Turfway or the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Nick Zito said he is still contemplating several options for Nowhere to Hide's next race.