Dolphus breaks his maiden at first asking for trainer Joe Sharp.
Less than a week after the announced retirement of the legendary Rachel Alexandra’s 3-year-old daughter, Rachel’s Valentina, the 2009 Horse of the Year’s half-brother Dolphus will try to pick up the family mantle in his Spa debut on Friday in the $ 100,000 Curlin for 3-year-olds.
Trained by Joe Sharp, Dede McGehee’s homebred Dolphus will be returning from a nearly six-month absence from the races after a brief winter campaign that included a pair of wins and a third-place effort in three starts at Fair Grounds.
Dolphus, named for Rachel Alexandra’s breeder and original owner Dolphus Morrison, won his unveiling by three-quarters of a length sprinting last November. The Lookin At Lucky colt finished third facing allowance company the following month, checking in 3 ¾ lengths behind that day’s runner-up, recent Grade 2 Woody Stephens winner Tom’s Ready.
The chestnut colt regrouped in his third start on January 31 to earn a late-running three-quarter-length victory against optional claimers despite hitting the gate at the start before being turned out to Dr. Barry Eisaman’s Williston, Fla. farm for the spring.
“We had a few minor soundness setbacks, he just needed a little time to catch up physically,” Sharp said of the layoff. “It wasn’t anything serious, we didn’t have to do any surgery or anything like that. We just gave him a little time being a horse. We sent him back to the farm and brought him back and he hasn’t missed a beat since.”
The chestnut colt has worked steadily since rejoining Sharp’s Kentucky string in early June, including his most recent half-mile breeze in 50.05 over Saratoga’s main track on July 24.
“We’re excited to get him back on track, I know we did the right thing giving him a little break,” Sharp said. “I think that we’re going to have a nice, fresh 3-year-old for the summer and fall campaigns. Both physically and mentally, he’s really just changed a lot. He’s gotten a little lighter – he’s lost some of that baby look. We really couldn’t be happier with where he is physically right now.”
Brian Hernandez, Jr., who rode Dolphus in each of his first three starts, will ship in from Ellis Park for the return engagement. The pair will break from post 5.
Carded as Race 9 on the 10-race program, the 1 1/8-mile Curlin has also attracted a formidable pair of Chad Brown trainees in Connect and Gift Box as well as multiple Grade 1-placed Swipe.
An impressive allowance winner on Belmont Stakes Day, Connect will be ridden Hall of Famer John Velazquez from the rail, while Gift Box, victorious in his 3-year-old return on May 26, will have the services of jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Swipe, trained by Keith Desormeaux, will try to bounce back from a pair of off-the-board finishes at Belmont Park, including a seventh-place result in the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 9. A four-time runner-up to Nyquist as a 2-year-old, including in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Swipe will be ridden by Junior Alvarado from the outside post 8.
Rounding out the field for the Curlin are 2015 Grade 3 Sanford winner Uncle Vinny and last-out allowance winner Ready Dancer from the Todd Pletcher barn; Majesto, in his first start since finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Gustavo Delgado; and the Dallas Stewart-trained Forever d’Oro, a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winners Forever Unbridled and Unbridled Forever who finished last in the Grade 1 Belmont last time out.
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