08/02/2013 4:07PM

Saratoga: Delaunay out for turnaround in Vanderbilt

Barbara D. Livingston
Delaunay will be making the first Grade 1 start of his career in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Delaunay lost his air of invincibility when he was upset by Gentlemen's Bet in the Iowa Sprint Handicap. He will try to get it back, and a little measure of revenge in the process, when he takes on Gentlemen's Bet and three other rivals in Sunday's $400,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga. The Grade 1 fixture will be contested at six furlongs.

Delaunay was claimed for $40,000 by trainer Tom Amoss for owner Maggi Moss at Churchill Downs in May of 2012. He rose to the top of the division by stringing together six straight victories, by margins ranging from 2 to 5 1/4 lengths, culminating with an easy four-length triumph in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on May 4.

Delaunay's rein as the king of the sprinters lasted just eight weeks, until he took on the once-beaten Gentlemen's Bet at Prairie Meadows in the Iowa Sprint Handicap. Sent off the prohibitive 1-5 favorite, Delaunay broke a step slowly, had to work hard to overtake Gentlemen's Bet briefly nearing the eighth pole, but could not match strides with that rival at the end, dropping a 1 3/4-length decision for his first setback in nearly 11 months.

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"He got left at the start and tried to make up the difference in the first quarter-mile," Amoss said. "I'm not taking anything away from the winner, who ran a really good race, but I think the start made all the difference in the world that night."

Breaking alertly is one of two concerns Amoss has bringing Delaunay into the first Grade 1 start of his career.

"I'm a little worried about the break, because he also got away a half step slow when he won the stakes at the Fair Grounds this winter, and we certainly don't want to see this becoming part of his M O," Amoss said. "But more than that, I'm concerned about how he's adapting to this track. His first work here was disappointing, but the track was funny that morning. The second was better. But this is the kind of racetrack horses either really like or they really don't, and that's got me a little worried."

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Delaunay will start from post 3 under regular rider Rosie Napravnik, and Amoss expects him to sit a nice stalking trip, with both Bahamian Squall and Gentlemen's Bet breaking to his inside. His colleague, trainer Steve Asmussen, will be looking for a similar set up for Justin Phillip, who dropped a tough neck decision to longshot Poseidon's Warrior when he was second in the 2012 Vanderbilt.

"He's a tough old war horse, made a lot of starts, earned some money, and we're hoping this will be a little redemption from last year's tough beat," Asmussen said.

Gentlemen's Bet and Bahamian Squall also will be making their first appearances in a Grade 1 race. Gentlemen's Bet has suffered just one loss in six starts, that setback being a third-place finish behind Justin Phillip earlier this season in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

"We got beat by three things that day, one of them being the fact that Justin Phillip is a nice, super horse," said Ron Moquett, who trains Gentlemen's Bet for owner Harry Rosenblum. "The others were inexperience and a dead rail. But at this level, he's got to bring his A game if he's going to beat Delaunay and these other top horses again."

Bahamian Squall is the only member of the Vanderbilt field to have already secured a spot in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, doing so by virtue of his victory over reigning sprint champion Trinniberg in Calder's Win and You're In Smile Sprint Handicap on July 6.

The versatile Caixa Eletronica, who won the rich Charles Town Classic going nine furlongs in 2012, has posted popular starter allowance wins in his last two starts, but did finish second in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational Stakes at seven furlongs last fall at Belmont Park.