The Tom Fool, a six-furlong dash on the inner track, will be Caleb’s Posse’s first start since his dynamic victory in November’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs.
Although Caleb’s Posse has been based at Oaklawn Park this winter, his trainer, Donnie Von Hemel, elected to send the 4-year-old back to New York for the Tom Fool, which is a steppingstone to the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap at seven furlongs on the Big A main track April 7.
“It’s perfect timing [for the Carter],” said Von Hemel, who trains Caleb’s Posse for McNeil Stables and Cheyenne Stables. “The [Tom Fool] is situated where the Carter could remain our main goal, and this race fits. It would have been better if the [Tom Fool] was on the main track, but I suppose this will serve as prep for the process of getting to New York. We’ll go back home [to Oaklawn] after this race.”
Caleb’s Posse has won six of eight career starts around one turn, including his past five. The son of Posse, however, hasn’t competed at six furlongs since winning a Keeneland allowance during his 2-year-old season. His opponents have combined to win 15 races from 33 starts at six furlongs.
“They’ll be tough to beat, no doubt,” said Von Hemel. “There are a lot of factors in their favor. We’re happy with our horse, and it should be an interesting race.”
Caleb’s Posse, the 9-5 morning-line favorite and 122-pound highweight, will leave from post six with Rajiv Maragh aboard.
One of Caleb’s Posse’s opponents with proven success at six furlongs is Calibrachoa, who has won eight of 15 starts at the distance. In addition, he is unbeaten in four stakes starts, all in stakes, on the inner track.
Last year, Calibrachoa swept the Grade 3 Toboggan and Tom Fool on the inner track, and will look to accomplish that feat again in 2012, having taken this year’s Toboggan by 2 ¼ lengths on February 4. He entered the 2012 Toboggan off a third in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga, a fifth in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont Park, and a victory in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler and a third in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap on Aqueduct’s main track.
“We’re happy the race is at Aqueduct on the inner track,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “The thing we’re concerned about is how he tends to run really well every other race. This would be the ‘other’ race. We haven’t been able to alter that by giving him extra time between races, so we figured we’d run here and look at the Carter. If he doesn’t run his top race here, maybe he will in the Carter, but it seems like he’s doing well and looks good.”
Calibrachoa, assigned 118 pounds, will leave from post 5 as the 2-1 morning-line second choice with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons.
The Tom Fool will be the stakes debut for Godolphin Racing’s Emcee, a 4-year-old who is unbeaten and untested in two starts. In September, the son of Unbridled’s Song debuted a 4 ½-length winner at Belmont, and in his lone 2012 start dueled for the lead and drew clear under a drive to take a Gulfstream Park allowance by six lengths on February 3.
“It’s a big step up,” admitted Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “He’s a very nice horse. We might as well find out sooner rather than later where he fits. We haven’t accomplished anything yet, so we got 114 pounds. He’s very fast, and there’s no time like the present to take a shot. We think we belong. If we don’t, we can adjust, but he’s as fast a horse as we’ve had in a long time.”
Eddie Castro has the call aboard Emcee, who drew post 4 and was installed at 5-2 on the morning line.
Two Foxwoods King’s Bishop winners will be represented in the Tom Fool as Caleb’s Posse is joined by 2009 victor Capt. Candyman Can. Owned by Rosemary A. Rauch and David Dell, the 6-year-old gelding seeks his first victory in nearly a year and enters Saturday’s race off a third in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship on February 18.
Capt. Candyman Can, 10-1 on the morning line, will carry 117 pounds, including Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado, from the rail.
The field also includes Royal Currier, a five-time stakes winner who was third by three-quarters of a length in his most recent start, the restricted Sunshine Millions on January 28 at Gulfstream; and Justin Phillip, winner of the Grade 2 Woody Stephens presented by VisitNassauCounty.com in 2011 who was last seen finishing sixth in the Bold Ruler.