10/26/2007 11:00PM

Soft turf suits Kip Deville just fine

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - You could've heard 10,000 tales of woe from the connections of losing horses on this sodden Saturday at Monmouth Park, a day when many horses surely struggled to get their footing on a super-soft grass course. But not from Cornelio Velasquez, who had just given Kip Deville a textbook ride in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

"He loved the soft turf," Velasquez said. "He loved it."

Velasquez eased Kip Deville off a moderate pace, saved ground while just behind pacesetting Cosmonaut, came out past the quarter pole, and zap - Kip Deville was gone. It was a top performance by any standard - even more so from an Oklahoma-bred son of Kipling who began his career in November 2005 in a maiden race at Remington Park.

Favored Excellent Art ran well, but for the third time this year was a bridesmaid in a major Grade 1 race. Breaking from post 13, and racing from the back of a 13-horse field, Excellent Art rallied strongly under Johnny Murtagh but couldn't catch Kip Deville, who had a jump of several lengths on him and won by a length. Ironically, while the Oklahoma-bred skipped over the turf, the Irish horse might have been compromised by an extremely soft course.

"He's a fast-ground horse with lovely low action," said trainer Aidan O'Brien. "He was drawn very poorly, too. I thought Johnny gave him a great ride."

Cosmonaut set the pace and ran well in defeat, holding third over second choice Nobiz Like Shobiz by neck after setting fractions of 24.26 seconds for the first quarter-mile, 49.55 to the half, and 1:14.65 for three-quarters. The final time on the demanding course was 1:39.78.

Kip Deville ($18.40), hit the bloodstock-agent radar screen with a big win in the Grand Prairie Turf Challenge in spring 2006, and was purchased privately by a large partnership headed by the IAEH Stables. Kip Deville made a quick splash, nearly pulling off a 28-1 upset in the 2006 Colonial Turf Cup in his first start for trainer Rick Dutrow. But Kip Deville hit new heights this past winter, winning the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita and the Grade 2 Maker's Mark at Keeneland in quick succession. His form tailed off in subsequent starts, but after a layoff between early June and early August, Kip Deville appeared to be back on his game with a second-place finish to Shakespeare last time out in the Woodbine Mile.

"I told everybody he was back," Dutrow said. "I told everybody he had his game face back on."

Kip Deville had a scheduled work pushed back from Monday to Tuesday last week because of a minor leg issue, but Dutrow insisted that Kip Deville was coming to the Mile in top form. His only concern was the soft turf, conditions Kip Deville hadn't handled last fall at Delaware.

"If it had been good or firm, I would have bet out on him," Dutrow said.

Kip Deville's owners essentially already had made a huge bet, supplementing him to the mile at cost of 15 percent of the purse. With supplemental fees, this year's Mile was worth $2,409,080, with Kip Deville earning $1,420,000.

After Market, one of the early Mile favorites, was scratched Saturday morning because of the course condition.