The Todd Pletcher trainee Dominus is the 3-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Grade 2 $150,000 Ft. Lauderdale, which drew a competitive field of 11 runners that will line up on the turf course.
Dominus is looking to rebound off back-to-back losses after the five-year-old son of Smart Strike won the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap in his turf debut on Sept. 1 at Saratoga.
He was in deep in his following start in a sixth place finish in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, checking in 8 ¼ lengths behind the winner Wise Dan, who went on to win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita Park and is the front-runner for Horse of the Year honors.
In his last start, Dominus dueled for the early lead and tired to finish fifth in the Grade 3 Ack Ack on the main track at Churchill Downs.
The race drew a solid field of turf runners, including four that are coming off victories.
Big Blue Kitten (6-1 according to the morning line odds at Equibase) was a game-winner versus optional claimers last out in his first go off a 5 1/2-month layoff for the Chad Brown barn. The five-year-old had a productive 2012 campaign, winning five races in a row including the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga.
He should be sitting off what is going to be a lively early pace and figures to move forward in his second start off the bench. The barn is solid with runners making their second start off the layoff, and his 6-1 morning line is fair enough.
Fifty Proof (6-1) won the restricted Sir Barton last out at Woodbine on polytrack in his first start after 18 months on the sidelines. He has shown he is just as good on turf as the fake stuff, landing in the exacta in seven of nine starts in his career on turf, including a runner-up finish in the 2010 Grade 1 Canadian International.
There is plenty of early speed in here, but if jockey Elvis Trujillo can work out a good trip for this guy, he has a shot of being in the mix here and should end up going off at a fair price.
Nikki’s Sandcastle (5-1) is coming into the race off wins in the Claiming Crown Emerald and the El Prado Stakes, both over the Gulfstream Park turf course. The six-year-old gelding has won seven of his 16 career starts on turf.
1. Big Blue Kitten
2. Fifty Proof
4. Nikki’s Sandcastle
Michael Dempsey has covered the New York circuit daily for more than two decades.