10/11/2012 1:44PM

Suffolk: Adahai faces a new challenge in John Kirby

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Suffolk Downs
Adahai easily wins the African Prince Stakes in September.

Adahai showed no rust three weeks ago in the African Prince Stakes, proving he is the boss of the 3-year-old Massachusetts-breds this year. He gets another chance to remain on top in Saturday’s $50,000 John Kirby Stakes at Suffolk Downs.

Based on his quick-footed debut in July, there was little doubt Adahai was the fastest runner in the African Prince Stakes on Sept. 22. The main question was how he would respond to pace pressure after being off for nearly three months and showing a gap in workouts for trainer Wayne Marcoux. The answer came in the form of a well-timed chase-and-pounce trip that counted as the 1,000th career win for jockey David Amiss.

Adahai returns on schedule for the Kirby, but now the question will be whether he can carry that speed a mile and 70 yards in the first two-turn race of his three-start career. His sire, Yonaguska, was a top sprinter and isn’t typically seen as a sire of Massachusetts-breds. He moved to stand in Turkey the year after Adahai’s crop.

All but one runner from the African Prince is back for this race, and it will be interesting to see if the lack of experience around two turns keeps Adahai from favoritism the way it did three weeks ago. Fonzy was the 13-10 choice last time and rallied to finish second while making a move similar to the winner’s, only from a bit farther back. Fonzy has three races around two turns, including a maiden-winning win at one mile Sept. 5. Jennifer Young takes over training from Marcus Vitali, while leading jockey Tammi Piermarini stays aboard.

The filly Dreamed a Dream won the Louise Kimball Stakes last month but never fired taking on these boys in the African Prince, clunking home in fourth. Her only experience going this distance wasn’t pleasant – a loss by more than 24 lengths in the First Episode Stakes against fillies and mares. There isn’t a route race for 3-year-old fillies on the Suffolk Downs schedule this year.

Danly’s Dream perked up by setting the pace in the African Prince and bulked up the trifecta at odds of 28-1. The gelding won a maiden race on the turf at Colonial Downs going a mile, but his two distance attempts on dirt at Suffolk were ugly, though they came against considerably tougher company than he faces Saturday, including in the Last Dance Stakes in August.

John Kirby died in January at age 85 after a long career breeding and racing off the family’s Smokey Valley Farm in Dover, Mass. His son Tim Kirby sends out Turko Star after a week’s rest and a second-place finish in a maiden-claiming spot. He had been sixth in the African Prince, a race named for one of the Kirby family’s stars.