Turtle Bird Stable’s once-beaten Haynesfield has dominated stakes competition over the winter on Aqueduct’s dirt inner track, but he’ll face some intriguing new foes on Saturday in the $250,000 Gotham Stakes (Grade III), New York’s first major prep for the 135th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).
The Steve Asmussen-trained Haynesfield has rolled to four consecutive victories after the New York-bred son of Speightstown finished third in his career debut in August at Saratoga. The last three of those wins have come in stakes races through the winter months at Aqueduct, including a romp in the Whirlaway last time out in his first outing at a two-turn distance.
Haynesfield’s eight foes in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham figure to present the colt with the strongest test of his young career. And the horses that come into the Gotham with the strongest reputations are the unbeaten Mr. Fantasy, who has notched a pair of dazzling victories at Aqueduct by a combined margin of 19 lengths; Imperial Council, a Shug McGaughey-trained son of Empire Maker who is coming off a strong victory in his 3-year-old debut at Florida’s Gulfstream Park; and I Want Revenge, who shipped from Southern California to make his debut on dirt in the Gotham.
Mr. Fantasy is owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. Like Haynesfield, he was bred in New York.
“The question is how will a New York-bred in open company do?,” said McLaughlin, who trained 2005 Kentucky Derby runner-up Closing Argument. “This is a big step up. We just don’t know yet.”
Alan Garcia will ride Mr. Fantasy in the Gotham.
Sequoia Racing’s Imperial Council, a winner of two of three career starts, makes his stakes debut in the Gotham, but David Lanzman Racing Stable’s I Want Revenge is a stakes veteran. His last two starts have been strong efforts against Pioneerof the Nile, who is regarded as the leading Kentucky Derby candidate on the West Coast. The latter has made all six of starts for trainer Jeff Mullins over synthetic surfaces.
The field for the Gotham, from the rail out (with jockey) includes Naos (Mike Luzzi), Russell Road (Travis Dunkelberger), Masala (Eibar Coa), Axel Foley (Richard Migliore), Mr. Fantasy (Garcia), Haynesfield (Lopez), Imperial Council (Rajiv Maragh), I Want Revenge (Joseph Talamo), and Giant Ryan (Jeffrey Sanchez).
Post time for the Gotham is scheduled for 4:18 p.m. (all times Eastern).
SOUTHEAST/FRIDAY ALLOWANCE AT GULFSTREAM COULD YIELD KENTUCKY DERBY CANDIDATES
A Friday afternoon allowance race two weeks back at Gulfstream Park ended in a star-making victory by unbeaten Kentucky Derby contender Dunkirk. The connections of eight 3-year-olds entered in a similar race Friday at the Hallandale, Fla. track will be hoping for the same kind of result.
Top contenders to emerge as candidates for the $750,000 Florida Derby (GI) on March 28 appear to be Lori and George Hall’s Atomic Rain and Jayeff B Stable’s Chef.
Atomic Rain is coming off a disappointing seventh-place run behind General Quarters in the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs. The Kelly Breen-trained son of Smart Strike had never finished worse than second prior to that outing. Chef romped to a 4 ¼-length victory in his career debut on Valentine’s Day and makes his debut at a two-turn distance for trainer Alan Goldberg.
Also hoping to return to form is Paul Pompa Jr.’s Well Positioned, who scored a 14 ¼-length maiden victory at Aqueduct in November but failed to contend when he ran sixth to Take the Points in his 3-year-old debut in a Gulfstream Park allowance race on Jan. 31.
Others in Friday’s allowance race include Idol Maker, Copper Cascade, Stately Character, Zooming White Star and Al Khali.
Chef is listed as the 5-2 morning line favorite and Atomic Rain is the 3-1 second choice. The race is scheduled as the ninth event on the Gulfstream card with a post time of 4:43 p.m.
Hello Broadway Preps for Tampa Bay Derby – Elizabeth Valando’s Hello Broadway, runner-up to Capt. Candyman Can in the Hutcheson (GII), prepped for next week’s Tampa Bay Derby (GIII) with a sharp six-furlong work on Thursday at Gulfstream Park.
The Barclay Tagg-trained son of Broken Vow covered the distance over a fast track in 1:14.
Tagg passed on a run last week in the Fountain of Youth (GII), run over Gulfstream’s one-turn mile, in favor of the two-turn distance of 1 1/16-miles in race at Tampa Bay Downs. The trainer of 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide thought Hello Broadway needed a pair of two-turn outings before he attempted the demanding 1 ¼ miles of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 2.
“We don’t have much choice now,” Tagg said. “If he can win in Tampa, we go to New York (for the Grade I Wood Memorial). If he can win there, on we go to Churchill.”
SOUTH/FRIESAN FIRE COULD FACE 10 FOES IN LOUISIANA DERBY
Risen Star (GII) and Lecomte (GIII) winner Friesan Fire pleased trainer Larry Jones with a strong work on Monday that keeps the son of A.P. Indy on target for a run in next week’s $600,000 Louisiana Derby (GII). The stablemate of early Derby 135 favorite Old Fashioned could face as many as 10 rivals in that race.
Jockey Gabriel Saez was in the irons as Friesan Fire worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 – a move that surprised his trainer.
“If this horse worked that fast this morning,” Jones said, “he’s starting to get good.”
Other possible starters in the Louisiana Derby include Risen Star runner-up Flying Pegasus; Lecomte runner-up Patena; Giant Oak, runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and a troubled fifth as the Risen Star favorite; California invader Papa Clem, runner-up in the Robert B. Lewis (GII) at Santa Anita; Southwest (GIII) runner-up Silver City; Free Country; Nowhere to Hide; and the Steve Asmussen-trained duo of Soul Warrior and Uno Mas.
WEST/STARDOM BOUND HEADS OAKS, BOYS COULD BE NEXT
Stardom Bound, the 2-year-old filly champion of 2008, is a heavy favorite to defeat nine rivals in Saturday’s $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks (GI).
A big effort by the winner of the Las Virgenes (GI) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) will likely earn her a bid against males in the Santa Anita Derby (GI), where a trip to the Kentucky Derby would be on the line. Mike Smith will ride Stardom Bound for trainer Bobby Frankel and co-owners IEAH Stables, who won the 2008 Kentucky Derby with Big Brown.
DUBAI/SOY LIBRIANO WINS UAE DERBY PREP
The 1 1/8-mile Al Bastakiya at Nad Al Sheba was to have served as the 2003 debut of American juvenile champion Midshipman, but the race lost considerable luster when that colt went to the sidelines last week with a leg injury.
In his absence, Soy Libriano and jockey Willie Supple defeated Godolphin-owned favorite Jose Adan and four other rivals in the prep for Dubai’s $2 million UAE Derby on March 28.