04/09/2008 11:00PM

Kip Deville returns against tough bunch

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Gary I. Rothstein/EQUI-PHOTOS
Kip Deville, Cornelio Velasquez up, won the Breeders' Cup Mile in his last race back in October. He has a string of strong recent workouts for his 2008 debut on Friday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Top to bottom, the field for the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile looks about as good as it can get, with the 2007 BC Mile winner, Kip Deville, set to make his seasonal debut Friday at Keeneland in a field of 11. Chances are, there won't be a deeper assembly in this division until the Breeders' Cup Mile in October.

At first glance, Kip Deville might seem vulnerable on the sole consideration that he has not raced since winning the BC Mile at 8-1 at Monmouth Park in late October. But trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. cautioned this week that the standout gray could come out firing with both barrels, and dismissing Kip Deville simply because of the 5 1/2-month layoff might be a mistake. A series of sharp works in recent weeks at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida, followed by a Monday blowout on the Keeneland Polytrack, suggest the horse is primed for a big comeback.

"He's going really good, and I'm sure he'll run huge, assuming he's looking to run off the bench," said Dutrow, who is scheduled to be here for the race. "The layoff, that's not a concern at all for me. Ever since the Breeders' Cup, he's been perfect. Everything has gone like clockwork, like you can't even imagine."

Kip Deville, an Oklahoma-bred with more than $2.4 million in earnings, will start from post 1 with Cornelio Velasquez aboard in the Maker's Mark Mile, which since last year has been upgraded from a Grade 2 event and gotten a purse hike to $300,000. Last year, with one prep under his belt, Kip Deville won the Maker's Mark over favored Showing Up.

Looking ahead, Dutrow said the next race for Kip Deville "doesn't really matter. All I'm hoping for is to get him back to the Woodbine Mile and the Breeders' Cup at the end of the year."

The opposition Kip Deville will face on Friday is formidable. Einstein (post 2) is a multiple Grade 1 winner, and although his preferred distance might be a tad longer than a mile, he nonetheless has proven himself of top quality and rates a fighting chance on class alone.

Thousand Words (post 5) and Out of Control (post 8), an uncoupled pair from the Bobby Frankel barn, both will draw their share of play. Thousand Words earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 in a highly impressive allowance score over the Santa Anita turf last out, while Out of Control, with Garrett Gomez named, has been knocking heads with regularity with the best turf horses out west.

Cosmonaut (post 7), third to Kip Deville in the BC Mile, has been a triple-digit Beyer Figure machine, dipping below 100 just once in his last 15 starts.

Shakis (post 9), winner of the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch last summer at Saratoga, figures to be sharp off a six-month layoff for Kiaran McLaughlin, who won two stakes last weekend at Keeneland, including the Grade 1 Ashland with Little Belle.

War Monger (post 10) will be looking to rebound as the beaten favorite in the recent Kilroe Mile, having posted huge efforts in winning his two previous starts.

The balance of the field is Parading, Ruff and Ready, Zann, and Thorn Song.

The Maker's Mark, the ninth of 10 races Friday, is the first leg of a two-day daily double that Keeneland is offering for the first time. Patterned after the longstanding Kentucky Oaks-Derby double at Churchill Downs, the new wager combines the Maker's Mark with the Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday.

Also, the Maker's Mark is part of a late pick four wager with a $200,000 guaranteed pool. TVG is the sponsor of the guaranteed late pick four (races 7-10) every Friday of the Keeneland spring meet, through April 25.

First post Friday is 1:10 p.m. Eastern, five minutes earlier than what had been customary for years here. The change went into effect Wednesday.