“We felt that the Gotham was a good spot and the timing was excellent,” Diamond said of the Michael Maker-trained colt. “We would love to take a shot at the Big Apple.”
On January 29, the striking gray son of Tapit stumbled badly at the start of the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, rushed up to take the lead through an opening-half mile in 45.67, and was not able to fend off Algorithms in the stretch, finishing second by four lengths.
“We would like to get a better start in the Gotham,” Diamond said. “We don’t want to make excuses, but when you think about it he probably ran the first quarter a second faster than what the timer showed. He ran two really fast quarters and that affected him in the latter stages. We are not taking anything away from Algorithms. He is a super horse and was better that day than Hansen. We just hope that on Gotham Day he will settle himself in the gate and show the Hansen that we all know he is.”
Diamond added that after the Gotham, there are a number of possible options, including the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Resorts World New York City Casino Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on Saturday, April 7 and the Grade 3 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 24.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said his pair of Godolphin Racing Classic contenders, Alpha and Consortium, have “switched spots,” with Alpha now being based at Palm Meadows in Florida and Consortium located at Belmont Park.
Alpha had been training at Belmont since December 28 and made two van rides over to Aqueduct Racetrack to win the Count Fleet on January 7 and the Grade 3 Withers on February 4. Following the Withers, McLaughlin said Alpha would most likely make his next start in Aqueduct’s Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham at 1 1/16 miles on March 3 or the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World New York City Casino Wood Memorial at 1 1/8 miles on April 7. McLaughlin now says the Wood Memorial is the likelier option.
“He shipped yesterday and is at Palm Meadows,” said McLaughlin, form Florida. “He’ll train here and probably won’t work for two weeks. There’s a plane going up to New York before the Gotham we could take, but he’ll probably make his next start in the Wood Memorial, with an outside chance of the Florida Derby [March 31 at Gulfstream Park] the week before.”
Consortium prepped at Palm Meadows for his start in the Gulfstream’s Grade 3 Holy Bull on January 29 and was re-routed to New York after finishing last of six in the one-mile race, which was contested over a sloppy racetrack.
“We sent Consortium on a van to New York [Friday],” said McLaughlin. “We’ll look at the Gotham with him. He worked at Palm Meadows on Thursday [four furlongs in 50.90], and he probably won’t work in New York until [February 18].”
McLaughlin said he has two possibles for the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap on the Gotham undercard in Darley Stable’s Emcee and Crossbow. Emcee is unbeaten in two starts, having rolled to a six-length allowance score on February 3 at Gulfstream in his most recent start, with Crossbow having taken an Aqueduct optional claimer by three lengths the same day.
“Emcee would probably be the horse, but Crossbow is another horse who could point for that race,” said McLaughlin.
Shadwell Stable’s Falaah, winner of two straight over the inner track, is no longer under consideration for the Tom Fool after exiting an optional claiming score with a bone chip, McLaughlin added.
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Caleb’s Posse, the only 3-year-old male to win two Grade 1 races in 2011, will begin his 2012 campaign with a start in the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap run over six furlongs on the inner track at Aqueduct Racetrack on Gotham Day, Saturday, March 3, according to trainer Donnie Von Hemel.
“Right now our plan is to run in the Tom Fool,” said Von Hemel, who trains Caleb’s Posse for McNeil Stables and Cheyenne Stables. “It is a good chance to get him acclimated with Aqueduct and also provides great timing to the Carter [Grade 1, Aqueduct, $400,000, seven furlongs, Saturday, April 7]. The enhanced purses [at Aqueduct] certainly get everyone’s attention and is a factor in any decision that we make.”
The bay Posse colt was a brilliant performer during the 2011 Saratoga Race Course meet, following up a dominant four-length victory in the Grade 2 Amsterdam with an electrifying stretch rally to defeat Eclipse champion Uncle Mo by a nose in the Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop on Travers Day.
Caleb’s Posse closed out his stellar year with a four-length triumph over Preakness winner Shackleford in the Grade 1, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs.
The colt has posted four registered workouts in 2012, including a four-furlong bullet at Oaklawn Park on February 5.
“He has been doing great,” Von Hemel said. “If everything goes well in his next few starts, the Met Mile [at Belmont Park on Monday, May 28] is a goal of ours.”
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New York-based trainer Todd Pletcher is one win away from his 3,000th and the barn will send out two starters at Aqueduct Saturday, in addition to nine at Gulfstream Park, where the trainer spends the winter.
At Aqueduct, Pletcher has Lisa T. in the six-furlong Dearly Precious Stakes, race 4 with a scheduled post time of 1:45 p.m., and maiden Big Creek in race 5 (2:13 p.m.). The trainer’s first starter at Gulfstream Park runs in race 2, with a scheduled post time of 1:01 p.m., with additional runners in races 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, and 11.
Through the conclusion of racing on Friday, February 10, Pletcher had won 484 career races at Aqueduct, checking in at 12th on the all-time win list for the Big A. At Belmont Park, he counts 537 career winners, good for third all-time, and at Saratoga Race Course his 324 career victories make him the all-time win leader.
Beginning Wednesday, February 15, a New York State Racing and Wagering Board rule change will now permit Trifecta wagering with a minimum of five betting interests on all races at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course. Previously, Trifecta wagering was only available on allowance or stakes races with five betting interests. Starting Wednesday, that will be extended to maiden and claiming races.
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The first two finishers in the Shot Are Ringing overnight stakes are preparing for a rematch in the $75,000 Stymie, which will be run for the 57th time next Saturday. Returning from his third straight victory at the Big A will be San Pablo, whose 4 ¾-length victory lifted his career record to 5-1-1 from seven starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. Also pointing to the 1 1/8 mile Stymie is runner-up Isn’t He Perfect, whose most recent win came in an optional claimer on November 24. Other possible starters, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, include Heart Butte, most recently fourth in the Evening Attire while attempting to defend his victory in the 2010 edition; 2011 Brooklyn Handicap winner Birdrun, second in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon last time out, and Pants On Fire, who was third in the 2011 Count Fleet in his most recent appearance at Aqueduct.