But now in a new barn on a new coast, the 4-year-old Benchmark colt will try to reverse his fortunes in one of New York’s more popular and tradition-rich races, Thursday’s 95th running of the $100,000-added Fall Highweight Handicap at six furlongs.
Parking gates will open at 9:15 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and admission gates will open at 9:30 a.m.
Martin and Pam Wygod’s Idiot Proof has only been in trainer Bruce Levine’s barn for a few weeks. Previously trained by C.W. Sise Jr. in California, Idiot Proof’s last race was the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita, where he beat only one horse in the 14-horse field.
“It’s hard to say much about him because we’re still getting to know him,” Levine said. “He was in Dubai earlier this year (second to Benny the Bull in the Golden Shaheen), and it may be that he needed more time to get re-acclimated here. His breezes have been okay. He’s not a big horse. He was sent here to run in these stakes this winter. He probably would have been in races like the DeFrancis Dash, but that race is gone. So, he’s here and this race is as good a spot as any to start him.”
Jockey John Velazquez has the mount at 132 pounds.
Darley Stable’s 5-year-old Songster, a graded stakes winner as a three-year-old, is hoping to make a full comeback in the Fall Highweight. After being retired in August 2007 with a soft tissue injury, he was sent to stud in 2008 for a fee of $10,000, but failed to impregnate any of the 60 mares he covered. Songster was sent back into training and in his first race since winning the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont Park in 2007, Songster ran third in the mud here behind two other Fall Highweight rivals: Susan Moore and M and M Thoroughreds’ Grand Champion, the defending Fall Highweight champ, and Char-Mari Stable’s He’s So Chic.
“That wasn’t a bad race at all,” said trainer Tom Albertrani. “When he was 3, he ran second at Aqueduct in the Bay Shore on a sloppy track. I remember Edgar (Prado, jockey) saying that he didn’t handle the track at all that day. We were reluctant to start him the other day, even though the track wasn’t as sloppy as the Bay Shore was that time. He still didn’t handle it real well, but we had to start somewhere with him. He got a little tired, which is what I expected, but he got a race under his belt and he still ran third.”
Prado returns aboard Songster at 131 pounds.
Ferocious Fires is also on the comeback trail after he had some suspensory problems in his left-hind leg. He was given plenty of time, and this year he has two wins and two thirds in five starts for trainer Anthony Dutrow Jr. A son of a Lite the Fuse, he will carry 131 pounds on Thursday.
Grand Champion, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, is 5-year-old Two Punch gelding ready for his title defense.
“He has always had his problems with his back and hind-end, so we stopped on him,” said Jerkens, explaining why Grand Champion raced 10 times last year and only five times so far this year. “His last race was a good one and probably for a combination of reasons. He was doing good, we put blinkers on him and he showed good speed, which is what we wanted to see.”
Grand Champion is also fond of Aqueduct, where he has won two of three starts with one third. Eibar Coa will ride him in the Fall Highweight at 131 pounds.
Fabulous Strike, runner-up in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last month, returns to the dirt for trainer Todd Beattie. He will carry the top weight of 136 pounds and will break from the rail in the Fall Highweight.
Silver Stetson Man gets in with 128 pounds for the Fall Highweight, and with Prado aboard Songster, the 4-year-old son of 1997 Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner Silver Charm will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
Completing the field for the Fall Highweight Handicap are Gold Trippi, who will carry 128 pounds, and Nakayama Arashi, who is assigned 126 pounds. Nakayama Arashi is trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., who has also entered Hudson Handicap winner Stormin Normandy in the Fall Highweight.
Stormin Normandy was sent to post Sunday as the 3-5 favorite in the overnight Itaka Stakes at a mile at the Big A, was the pacesetter early and then backed up after a half of 46.82 as 16-1 Love Abroad came home the winner in 1:37.41 on the fast track.
The field for Thursday’s 95th running of the Fall Highweight Handicap:
PP. HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY WGT.
1a. Fabulous Strike Todd Beattie Ramon Dominguez 136
2. Ferocious Fires Anthony Dutrow Cornelio Velasquez 131
3. Grand Champion James Jerkens Eibar Coa 131
4. Stormin Normandy Richard Dutrow Jr. Richard Migliore 131
5. Songster Thomas Albertrani Edgar Prado 131
6. He’s So Chic Jason Servis Jose Lezcano 127
7. Gold Trippi Stanley Hough Javier Castellano 128
8a. Nakayama Arashi Richard Dutrow Jr. Eddie Castro 126
9 Idiot Proof Bruce Levine John Velazquez 132
10. Silver Stetson Man Bob Baffert Alan Garcia 128