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Tony Dutrow in position to put two horses in Kentucky Derby

TONY DUTROW moved his family to Newtown in August 2004, a month after the slots bill became law. All things being equal, he would have stayed in his native Maryland, where he trained more than his share of winners.

TONY DUTROW moved his family to Newtown in August 2004, a month after the slots bill became law. All things being equal, he would have stayed in his native Maryland, where he trained more than his share of winners.

The horse-racing field, however, had tilted heavily in favor of Pennsylvania, and Dutrow wanted to be in position to take advantage when slot money began to supplement purses. That began in December 2006.

Dutrow's powerful stable took off with the new money. Purses have doubled. Splitting his stable between Aqueduct and Philadelphia Park, Dutrow has been winning big since he moved north.

Last year, his stable won 153 races. His horses won 28 percent of the time, the horse-racing equivalent of a .350 hitter in baseball. The move was a great decision, maybe even better than the trainer imagined.

It might be about to get better than he ever thought possible. For the first time in his career, Dutrow, 51, is pointing two horses toward the Kentucky Derby.

"All us horsemen, to have a chance at better horses and a big race like the Kentucky Derby, it's so special," Dutrow said last Friday morning while overlooking his final set at PhillyPark, hard by Barn 12 just across the road from Barn 11, where Smarty Jones emerged 6 years ago. "I have a couple of horses that are promising, and they're on their way. I hope they can stay on their way. It's very exciting."

Winslow Homer made his debut in July at Delaware Park, finishing third. The colt broke his maiden at Saratoga in August, looking like a good thing. The son of Unbridled's Song looked better than good when he won a Nov. 20 PhillyPark allowance race by 12 1/2 lengths.

Winslow Homer makes his 3-year-old debut tomorrow at Gulfstream Park in the Holy Bull Stakes. Wilmington's Rick Porter owns the colt. He is a man who really wants to win the Derby after owning the runner-up in 2007 and 2008.

"Winslow Homer's good," Dutrow said. "It didn't take him long to tell everybody he was better than average."

Dutrow described his PhillyPark win as "awesome."

"This is the kind of horse Rick gives you," said Dutrow, who got some of Porter's horses last year.

Yes, Tony is the brother of Rick Dutrow, trainer of 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. Two men from the same family could not be more different.

The 2008 Triple Crown was more about Rick than the horse. He made it that way because he said one outrageous thing after another. The horse backed the trainer up until the bizarre, last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

Tony is like Rick in only one way. He is really good at what he does. Horses run fast for him.

He just won't tell you about it. He will let the horses run and then react to the performance.

It took A Little Warm four tries to break his maiden, but when he won, he exploded. That was a Nov. 23 race at Philadelphia Park when the colt won by 10 3/4 lengths. He made his 3-year-old debut in the Jan. 9 Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream and won it by 1 1/2 lengths.

"He was big-time," Dutrow said. "An improving horse. We are going to add some distance to his campaign and we'll see how far he'll go."

If all goes according to plan, Winslow Homer will run next in the Fountain of Youth and A Little Warm in the Hutcheson. Both races are Feb. 20 at Gulfstream.

For the first time in his career, Dutrow has taken a group of horses to South Florida for the winter. If you are serious about the Derby, you go where it is warm. You don't need training time interrupted.

And the bigger the race you are pointing for, the more important that becomes. We have no bigger race than the Derby.

Dutrow was not thinking Derby when he moved north. But he is in the South for days at a time this winter, because the Derby is just past the horizon.

"I had to stay on the move," Dutrow said. "Maryland was not looking good. Philly was. Got me up close to New York. I was feeling really good about being in the middle of a lot of good racing.

"My kids were young enough at the time that my wife [Kim] and I didn't think it was going to be a big impact on their future. It worked out fantastic for us.

"I never really had any goals in horse racing. I never wanted to be a leading trainer or win this many races or win that big race or win the Kentucky Derby. I never had any goals. I was just real happy to come out and work with what I had.

"For me to be standing in the shoes I am now with the type of clients and horses I have, it keeps me up all night. I'm so excited, I feel so blessed. I wish this could happen to every horse trainer."

Dutrow does not sleep much at night. There is a responsibility that goes with horses on the Derby trail. He has spent some time talking with Rick about his experience.

"Ricky being different than me, as most people know, I never had any doubts [about him]," Dutrow said. "Ricky knew as a little kid that [he] was going to do big stuff. He always had confidence in doing the big stuff. I was never like that."

So there will be no predictions from this Dutrow. Does he think these two are good enough?

"I really don't," Dutrow said. "If things were perfect, I could [say] that. It's one step at a time."

He does not mean they can't be good enough. He just means they haven't shown it - yet.

"The Holy Bull is not a big deal for me, Mr. Porter or Winslow Homer," Dutrow said. "A one-turn mile is not what Homer wants."

The goal, he is saying, is much bigger than tomorrow. Dutrow feels confident the colt will excel at two-turn racing.

"He is going to come back in the Fountain of Youth at a mile-and-an-eighth in his next start regardless of how he runs in the Holy Bull," Dutrow said.

Today, we know Tony Dutrow is alive for the Derby. In a month, we will know if he is live. *