Bio for Dunkirk
Profile by Mary Rampellini
Strengths: Dunkirk could be sitting on an optimum performance. He skipped the Preakness to focus on the Belmont Stakes as indicated by his strong series of local works. And let's face it, Dunkirk is meant to excel on a Grade 1 stage. A $3.7 million yearling purchase, he boasts an impeccable pedigree and gave a glimpse of his talent just three starts into his career, when second to the brilliant Quality Road in the Florida Derby. Dunkirk earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 108 that day, which is the best number put up by any starter in this year's Belmont. For the cherry-topper, his owners, trainer, and rider teamed to win this race in 2007 with the gritty filly Rags to Riches.
Weaknesses: Dunkirk has not proven that he has surface adaptability from limited opportunities, as his best efforts have come on fast tracks at Gulfstream Park. He could be vulnerable if the track is wet on Saturday, as he did not handle an off track in the Kentucky Derby.
Strategy: Dunkirk is expected to bid from off the pace, but he can be closer to the leaders than a number of these as he had the lick to win his maiden at seven furlongs. As a result, look for Dunkirk to be one of the first ones coming after a quality kind of front-runner in Charitable Man.
Value: Dunkirk has been the favorite in three of his four starts, but he should not assume that role in the Belmont because of the presence of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and "now" horse Charitable Man. That makes for some value on Dunkirk, who has a big shot to land in the winner's circle Saturday.
MRS. JOHN (SUSAN) MAGNIER
She is the daughter of champion racehorse trainer Vincent O’Brien, and is married Ireland’s leading Thoroughbred stud owner, John Magnier. Magnier’s operation is based at Coolmore Stud at Fethard, County Tipperary. A number of other stud farms are part of an extensive network which includes Longfield and Castlehyde studs. The operation also has branches in Versailles, Kentucky and at Jerry’s Plains in New South Wales, Australia.
Owning Thoroughbreds was a “natural extension” of his involvement as principal
shareholder in the Arthur Prince chain of betting shops in the United Kingdom, which he sold in 1996 for $50 million. He purchased his first Thoroughbred in 1972 and campaigned primarily in Europe. In partnership with Derrick Smith, he won the 2007 Belmont Stakes with Rags to Riches, the first filly to win in 102 years. Tabor and his wife, Doreen are residents of Monaco.
Smith first gained prominence as a co-owner with Michael Tabor in such horses as Lion Heart, Pomeroy, Sense of Style and third-place 2003 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Chapel Royal. He has since been a partner in many top horses trained by Aidan O'Brien in Ireland, such as George Washington and Alexandrova, as well as G1 Irish Derby and G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Hurricane Run. After working at Ladbrokes, he made his fortune in property and currency trading.
Pletcher is seeking his second Belmont Stakes victory, having saddled filly Rags to Riches to win in 2007. Dunkirk will be his ninth starter in Belmont, having finished second and third in 2006 with Bluegrass Cat and Sunriver and third (dead-heat) last year with Ready’s Echo. A four-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top trainer from 2004-07, Pletcher’s horses won 208 races and more than $13 million in 2008. The son of a trainer, Jake Pletcher, Pletcher opened his own stable in 1996 after serving as an assistant to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.
Velazquez scored his first victory in a Triple Crown race in 2007, teaming with Pletcher to win the Belmont Stakes aboard filly Rags to Riches. Winner of the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top jockey in 2004 and 2005, he won career race No. 4000 on Sept. 28, 2008, at Belmont Park aboard Rogue Agent. A graduate of Puerto Rico’s jockey school, he came to New York in 1990 under the tutelage of Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr., who now serves as his agent. Married to Leona, his father-in-law is trainer Leo O’Brien