02/26/2010 1:00AM

Victory Notion sharp off last two


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Victory Notion has not won a race on dirt, yet he earned his career-best Beyer Speed Figure on such a surface two starts ago at Oaklawn. On Sunday, he can make his burgeoning affinity for the main track official with a win in the ninth race. Victory Notion looks like a solid choice in the second-level allowance at a mile, which also serves as the comeback for 2009 Triple Crown alum Flying Private.

Victory Notion has spent the bulk of his career racing on turf and synthetic surfaces, but he has run two of the best races of his career at this meet on dirt. In his local debut Jan. 24, Victory Notion was second to Racing Bran in a $40,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles, earning a 91 Beyer. The number was a career-high for the horse, and his effort looked even better a few weeks later when Racing Bran took the $100,000 Essex at Oaklawn.

Victory Notion, meanwhile, returned in another $40,000 optional claimer on Feb. 7 and was third by 1 1/2 lengths. He earned an 89 Beyer. And again, the company line has turned out to be strong. The winner of the race was the stakes-placed Gresham, while the runner-up, Sea Gaze, had won six straight heading into that optional claimer and then won again last week at Oaklawn.

Victory Notion also could get a favorable pace to fuel his late kick. There are several front-runners in the field, including Toby the Coal Man, who was seventh in last year's Grade 1 Florida Derby; In Case of Fire, a pacesetter in his last several starts; and perhaps a fresh Flying Private, who worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.80 seconds here Thursday.

Victory Notion will be shortening up some in distance Sunday, but three starts ago he closed fast to finish fifth, beaten just two lengths, in the $50,000 Holiday Cheer at six furlongs at Turfway on Dec. 26. Terry Thompson has the mount for owner Texas Toyco LLC and trainer Jeff Talley.

Flying Private made all three legs of last year's Triple Crown, running 19th in the Kentucky Derby, fourth in the Preakness, and sixth in the Belmont. He returns Sunday to a surface over which he finished second by a head in the Mountain Valley. He went on to run second in the Grade 2 Lane's End. Israel Ocampo rides for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.