So when Capt. Candyman Can finished a well-beaten fourth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth to Quality Road, the trio had no qualms about pulling him off the road to the Triple Crown.
Accordingly, while Capt. Candyman Can will be running at Aqueduct Saturday, it will not be in the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial, New York’s final major prep for the May 2 Run for the Roses. Instead, the gelded son of Candy Ride will be facing nine other 3-year-olds in the 49th running of the $200,000 Bay Shore Stakes at seven furlongs, the seventh race on an 11-race card that includes the aforementioned Wood Memorial and the 85th running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap.
Also on the card is the 97th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior at nine furlongs, which drew a field of eight older horses including a pair from last year’s Triple Crown trail in Albert Fried’s Giant Moon and Robert LaPenta’s Cool Coal Man.
“The owners are very realistic,” said Wilkes, who will give a leg up to new rider Javier Castellano in the Bay Shore. “And the one thing they’ve always told me is they want what’s best for the horse.”
While the Bay Shore distance suits for Capt. Candyman Can, the leading money-earner in the field with $224,145, he will be facing a big field of sophomores in varying stages of development, including a pair from trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in the lightly-raced Counter Move, 2-for-2 for owner Don Amos, and the more seasoned Taqarub, who was ninth in the Fountain of Youth for Shadwell Stable.
“Counter Move broke running in his last race, but he will not be on the lead in the Bay Shore,” said McLaughlin of the son of Vindication, who went wire-to-wire to win an optional claimer over the inner track here at Aqueduct on March 7. “He drew post No. 2 and will most likely be stalking Taqarub, who will have to be quick leaving from post No. 10. Both are training well and it looks like a good spot for them.”
John Velazquez rides Counter Move while Richard Migliore is aboard Taqarub.
Making a big jump up in class is John Moirano’s undefeated Hatfield, whom trainer Gary Contessa claimed for $40,000 in a maiden race here at the Big A on Feb. 1 and who stretched out to take a one-mile allowance by a length on Feb. 27.
“I expected him to win by more, but it was a more laborious performance,” said Contessa of the son of Proud Citizen, who will break from the rail with Jorge Chavez aboard. “He won on class, but he’s probably a very good sprinter. An allowance race I had picked out for him didn’t go, so we looked at the Bay Shore and thought, ‘Why not?’”
Shipping in from California with probable Wood Memorial favorite I Want Revenge is stablemate Gato Go Win, who will be making his first start on dirt for trainer Jeff Mullins and owner Joey Platts. Second in the Grade 2 San Vicente on Feb. 16, the son of City Place has a pair of victories from six starts and will be ridden by Joe Talamo from post No. 8.
Back for a return engagement at the Big A is Ted Julio’s Not for Silver, who shipped in from Laurel in February to run off with the Fred “Cappy” Capossela, and returned to Maryland to finish second in the Private Terms on March 21. Ramon Dominguez rides from post No. 6 for trainer Michael Trombetta.
Trainer Steve Asmussen will be represented by J.K. Robison’s Lyin’ Heart, who returned from a six-month layoff on Feb. 28 to finish third in an overnight stakes at Oaklawn Park. Off the board in the Grade 3 Saratoga Special in his last appearance in New York, he will be ridden by Edgar Prado from the No. 3 post.
Completing the field are the Nick Zito-trained Rocketing Returns, fifth to Capt. Candyman Can in the Hutcheson; King Puma, second in an overnight stakes on the artificial surface at Turfway in his last start; and Yano, coming off a pair of victories at Laurel going 5½ furlongs.
In the Excelsior, Giant Moon will be making only his second start for trainer Rick Schosberg off a lengthy layoff, having returned to finish second in the Rough Rogue Stakes in his first start since the Preakness, in which he was eighth. The New York-bred son of Giant’s Causeway then came back to take the overnight Mr. G.J.C. Stakes on March 6. He will break from post No. 8 with jockey Edgar Prado up.
Cool Coal Man, saddled by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, earned nearly $400,000 as a 3-year-old, winning the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, finishing 15th in the Kentucky Derby, and gaining third behind Big Brown in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. A winner of his 4-year-old debut, he was fifth to Smooth Air in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 15. C.C. Lopez will ride from post No. 6.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has entered two familiar faces in the Excelsior in Zayat Stables’ Alaazo, a sharp two-length winner in an optional claimer here at the Big A on March 8, and Dogwood Stable’s Atoned, who finished second to Court Vision in his lone Aqueduct appearance in the Grade 2 Remsen in 2007.
“Atoned been training very well and he’s been a consistent performer for us,” said Pletcher. “He likes Aqueduct and we expect more of the same from him. I was very pleased with Alaazo’s last effort and we’ll see if he can take that next step up.”
Alaazo will break from post No. 2 under jockey Rosie Napravnik, while Atoned leaves from the No. 7 hole with John Velazquez aboard.
Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are Darley Stable’s Stymie winner, Barrier Reef; Pablo Gomez’s runner-up, Real Merchant; Augustin Stable’s Kurbat, winner of his U.S. debut at Laurel on Feb. 6, and Vernon Dubinsky’s True Resurgence, third in the Stymie.