06/11/2009 11:00PM

Kip Deville in good shape for Poker

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Kip Deville
Kip Deville will make his first start since the Dubai Duty Free in Saturday's Grade 3 Poker Stakes at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. - He is in the middle of his 6-year-old season and a veteran of 28 races. In a span of seven months, he raced in Canada, California, Hong Kong, south Florida, and Dubai. Still, to hear his connections tell it, Kip Deville may be better than ever.

"Michelle came back the other day after a gallop," trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said Thursday, referring to exercise rider Michelle Nevin "and said 'Rick, that might be the best I've ever felt him.' It's crazy."

On Sunday afternoon, the rest of us will get to see just how well Kip Deville is doing when he heads a field of six entered in the Grade 3, $100,000 Poker Stakes going a mile at Belmont Park. Kip Deville carrying 125 pounds when the race was a handicap. This year, the race is run under allowance conditions, and Kip Deville will carry 123 pounds. He will break from post 6 under Cornelio Velasquez.

Kip Deville ended his 4-year-old season with a victory in the run over a yielding turf course.

He ran a strong second to the brilliant filly Goldikova in the at Santa Anita. His connections could not turn down an invite to the Hong Kong Mile in December, but Kip Deville failed to fire, finishing ninth of 14.

With an eye on the Dubai Duty Free at 1 1/8 miles, Kip Deville ran in the at that distance at Gulfstream and won by 1 3/4 lengths. In Dubai, however, Kip Deville again failed to show up, running 10th in the 16-horse field.

"We were very happy the way he went into the race - Kip was one of the favorites for the race - we were very excited," Dutrow said. "When the gates opened Kip just never showed up. I just got no answers. I don't feel like anyone did anything wrong, he just never showed up in the race. I don't know what to make of it. The same thing happened in Hong Kong but that's [running] the other way."

Though Dutrow's primary goal with Kip Deville is a return trip to Woodbine in September and to the Breeders' Cup in November, he sees the Poker as fitting perfectly into the horse's schedule.

"We're going to follow his lead, point him in the right direction," Dutrow said. "I know we've made a bunch of bad moves with him, still he's ready to roll. He seems like everything is A-okay to run him in this race."

Benny the Bull points to Smile Sprint

Dutrow said Benny the Bull came out of his second-place finish in in good order and will remain on course for the Grade 2, $350,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 11. Benny the Bull won that race last year, his final start before being sidelined with an ankle chip.

"Without a doubt, Benny is a Florida freak, he loves it down there," Dutrow said. "The two best races he's run for me were the Sunshine Millions and the Smile from last year."

In the True North, Benny the Bull was making his first start since the Smile last July. That he finished within 1 1/4 lengths of Fabulous Strike in a time of 1:07.85 was fine with Dutrow.

"I was the happiest person there, are you kidding me?" Dutrow said.

Dutrow said This Ones for Phil, who finished fifth as the favorite in the , has been sent to the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington, Ky., to be examined by Dr. Larry Bramlage.

"He's not off, but I can see that he needs some help," Dutrow said. "Dr. Bramlage will fix him up. We got time to find out what's going on."

Driven by Success eyes Tom Fool

Commentator may not be the only New York-bred targeting this year's Grade 1 Whitney Handicap.

Driven by Success, who finished a game third in the on Memorial Day, will be pointed to the Grade 2, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap here July 5. Trainer Bruce Levine said that race could be used as a stepping-stone to the Whitney, a 1 1/8-mile race Aug. 8.

Though Driven by Success has not raced beyond a mile and 70 yards, Levine isn't so sure that he won't handle route distances. His three wins for Levine all came at six or 6 1/2 furlongs, but Driven by Success ran extremely well when at seven furlongs and in the Met Mile.

"If anything, he ran better in the Met, so why can't he go a mile and an eighth?" Levine mused. "I don't tell you he can, but I don't want to run him in the Vanderbilt," a six-furlong race at Saratoga on Aug. 9.

Levine said Driven by Success came out of the Met Mile better than he did the Carter in April.

"The Carter knocked him, and this one didn't, figure that out," Levine said.

Lime Rickey to Colonial Turf Cup

Lime Rickey, who scratched out of the Hill Prince when that race was switched to the dirt, will make his next start in the $600,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs June 20, trainer Frank Alexander said.

The Colonial Turf Cup is run at 1 3/16 miles, three-sixteenths farther than the Hill Prince.

"I don't think the distance is any problem for him, he relaxes good," Alexander said. "The reason I thought the mile was good is because there's speed; a mile and three-sixteenths you may have to lay a little closer."

Alexander said Julien Leparoux would ride Lime Rickey in the Colonial Turf Cup. His regular rider, Javier Castellano, is scheduled to ride Criticism in the New York Stakes here on the same day.

* One day after jockey Eibar Coa lost his agent, and agent Mike Kelly lost his rider, Coa hired Kelly to be his agent.

On Wednesday, Coa's agent Matt Muzikar left Coa to represent Javier Castellano, who parted ways with Kelly after a 6 1/2-year run.

* To coincide with this weekend's Subway Series between the Mets and Yankees, Belmont will offer free admission Saturday and Sunday to patrons wearing apparel bearing the logo of either club.