Thursday, February 05, 2009


Monday morning, shortly before “predicting” that winter will come to a quick end, Charles G. Hogg, Staten Island’s answer to the more famous Puxatawnie Phil and other prognasticating rodents, took a bite out of New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Already backed into his lair by the presence of the Groundhog Day crowd, Hogg was not about to be groped by the in-a-hurry mayor without making a statement.

Proof, once again, that impatience often leads to pain.

With the official notice that spring is not far off – after two very cold days on Wednesday and Thursday, temperatures in the Metropolitan New York area are expected to be in the high 40s and 50s this weekend – many trainers are starting to feel anxious.

But Steve Asmussen, 2008’s Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Trainer, is remaining patient, especially when it comes to Turtle Bird Stables’ Haynesfield, who will make his fifth career start Saturday afternoon in Aqueduct’s 30th running of the $100,000-added Whirlaway for three-year-olds at a mile and a sixteenth.

The Speightstown colt debuted at Saratoga on August 29 and was a badly beaten third at five and a half furlongs. Since then, he has reeled off three straight wins and, on January 3, rated well for jockey Ramon Dominguez. In his first start in open company, he won the Count Fleet Stakes here at a mile and seventy yards.

That kind of success usually gets trainers to start having Kentucky Derby dreams. But as soon as you mention the “Run for the Roses,” Asmussen will cut you off.

“We’re concentrating on the Whirlaway,” said Asmussen, who will be at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana on Saturday to saddle Jimmy Simms in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap, Four Gifts and War Echo in the Grade 3 Silverbulletday Stakes and three other three-year-olds – Uno Mas, Soul Warrior and Dumar – in the Grade 3 Risen Star. “This colt has done some very nice things in his two route races, but we are definitely taking this one race at a time. In the Whirlaway, we’re hoping he continues to improve.”

Dominguez, Aqueduct’s leading jockey, has the return mount on Haynesfield, who drew the rail against five rivals.

“The post will affect the race,” Asmussen said. “We don’t know how it will affect the race until we run. But this horse has shown speed and the ability to race. We just want him to keep getting better.”

A winner of three of five starts, Peace Town looms a serious foe in the Whirlaway. Trained at Laurel by Mike Trombetta, the Peace Rules colt closed out 2008 with a victory in the Maryland Juvenile Championship at a mile and a sixteenth on December 27. His worst performance came on a synthetic surface, where he ran sixth but was placed fifth by disqualification.

Trainer Trainer Steve Klesaris has entered Anthony Mitola’s Hehasnosay. A loser in his first start, the Harlan’s Holiday colt has taken to distance and two turns. The Whirlaway will mark his first start outside of Philadelphia Park.

Repole Stable’s Mike from Queens pressed the pace in the Count Fleet, only to finish third for trainer Bruce Levine. He has raced at every Thoroughbred track in New York – he raced at the New York Racing Association tracks at Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga, and was beaten a neck in the Finger Lakes Juvenile

ZAyat Stable’s Zooger make an ambitious start here. The Hold that Tiger colt was last in the mud in his debut, but came back to break his maiden on January 5.

Paraneck Stable’s Cellar Dweller rounds out the likely starters for the Whirlaway. Trained by John Campo Jr., his only victory in seven starts came on this track at a mile and a sixteenth.

The field for Saturday’s 30th running of the Whirlaway:

1. Haynesfield Steve Asmussen Ramon Dominguez 122
2. Hehasnosay Steve Klesaris Eddie Castro 118
3. Peace Town Michael Trombetta Julien Pimentel 120
4. Mike from Queens Bruce Levine Rajiv Maragh 118
5. Zooger Anthony Dutrow Channing Hill 118
6. Cellar Dweller John Campo Jr. Rosie Napravnik 118

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