Haynesfield a Force in Gotham
Friday, March 06, 2009

On paper, the $250,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) has turned out to be one of the most intriguing and highly-anticipated prep races of the season, as a number of promising 3-year-olds will attempt to answer questions about their ability to go on to the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I), and possibly the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

A field of nine was entered for the March 7 Gotham, which will be run at 1 1/16 miles on Aqueduct’s inner track. Four colts with legitimate Derby potential – Haynesfield, Mr. Fantasy, I Want Revenge, and Imperial Council – lead the way, each of them with different hurdles to climb. The Gotham is race nine on the Aqueduct card and will go to the post at 4:18 p.m. EDT.

The Gotham is featured on this week's That Handicapping Show.

Turtle Bird Stable’s Haynesfield and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Mr. Fantasy are both New York-breds who have dazzled over the Aqueduct inner track leading up the race, but both of them will face top-notch talent, including each other, for the first time.Haynesfield, who was bred by Barry Weisbord and Margaret Santulli, has won four consecutive races since finishing a distant third in his racing debut Aug. 29 at Saratoga. His last three victories were all in stakes competition at Aqueduct, beginning with a wire-to-wire, 5 1/4-length score in the restricted Damon Runyan Dec. 7 that closed out his 2-year-old season.

A son of Speightstown —Nothing Special, by Tejabo, Haynesfield stalked the pace and drew away for another easy win in the Count Fleet Jan. 3, and then romped by more than six lengths when taking the two-turn Whirlaway in front-running fashion Feb. 7. Those last two wins came under Ramon Dominguez, but Chuckie Lopez will get the mount for the first time in the Gotham. The chestnut will break from post 6 and carry 120 pounds – four more than his eight rivals.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Haynesfield has worked twice since the Whirlaway, including a five-furlong breeze in 1:03.06 Feb. 23 at Belmont.

“He’s stepping up and it’s different competition, but that’s the name of the game,” assistant trainer Toby Sheets said. “More money means better horses. I think he fits at this point and he hasn’t proven otherwise. I’m very happy about where I’m at with him.”

Mr. Fantasy has been sensational in the first two starts of his career. A son of E Dubai , out of the Spectacular Bid mare Twice Forbidden, the bay colt broke his maiden by 10 1/2 lengths Dec. 28 at Aqueduct while going six furlongs in 1:10.51.

Kiaran McLaughlin wanted to give Mr. Fantasy another sprint test before sending him two turns, but after one race failed to fill and another was canceled due to whether, the trainer decided to put him in a 1 1/16-mile allowance contest Feb. 1 on the inner track. It turned out to be fortuitous, as he went right to front despite breaking from post 10 and never looked back en route to an 8 1/2-length triumph.

McLaughlin is now anxious to see how Mr. Fantasy responds to this kind of class jump.

“He’s a very nice horse who has been training well. The question is, how will a New York-bred in open company do?” McLaughlin said. “We’ll have to see. This is a big step up. We just don’t know yet.

“He’s very fast and just outclassed other horses in his last two, but he’s not a runaway type horse who has to be on the lead. He can rate. We’ll leave a lot up to Alan (Garcia) as far as where he puts him.”

Bred by Corra Cavalo Thoroughbreds, Mr. Fantasy was a $230,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old purchase. He is a half-brother to 2008 Big Apple Triple winner Tin Cup Chalice.

While class is the question for Haynesfield and Mr. Fantasy, it has already been answered by David Lanzman Racing Stable’s homebred I Want Revenge. But how will the son of Stephen Got Even respond in his first try on natural dirt?

When last seen, I Want Revenge had the lead into the stretch of the Feb. 7 Robert B. Lewis (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park, but was eventually tackled by Pionnerof the Nile, who has established himself as the top West Coast Derby prospect after winning by 1 1/2 lengths on Pro-Ride. It was the second consecutive race in which I Want Revenge dropped a close one to Pioneerof the Nile. In his 2-year-old finale, he lost by a nose in the two-turn CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park after rallying well from off the pace.

I Want Revenge, who broke his maiden at Hollywood in his fourth start, has made all six of his career starts on synthetic surfaces. But trainer Jeff Mullins decided the colt might like a natural dirt track better and shipped him to New York. Bred in Kentucky, he already has $174,000 in graded earnings. Regular rider Joe Talamo will fly in from California for the mount.

“Joe (Talamo) thought he didn’t get a hold of the synthetic that well and might do better on dirt,” Lanzman said. “That’s been (Mullins') opinion all along. We might as well find out now, sooner than later.”

Distance is the main question for Sequoia Racing’s Imperial Council, who will make his first start around two turns for Shug McGaughey and was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite. The Empire Maker colt seems as if he might enjoy the added distance, based on his two-length victory in a Feb. 14 allowance at Gulfstream Park, where he edged clear late in the 6 1/2-furlong race. It came four months after breaking his maiden at second asking at Belmont Park.

Imperial Council, to be ridden by Rajiv Maragh for the first time, turned in a bullet work March 2 in Florida, getting four furlongs in :48.20.

“I look forward to running him two turns,” McGaughey said. “I think what we’ve been doing with him, sprinting, isn’t what he wants to do naturally, so I don’t think the distance will be a problem.”

Also worth consideration in the Gotham are a pair of colts trained by Todd Pletcher – both of them by Lion Heart . Starlight Partners’ Naos enters off an impressive 3 1/4-length score in allowance company at Philadelphia Park Feb. 15. He will break from the rail under Mike Luzzi. Peachtree Stable’s Masala broke his maiden in the mud at Aqueduct last November, and then finished second to Sham (gr. III) runner-up Take the Points in a Jan. 31 allowance at Gulfstream.

McLaughlin also conditions Axel Foley, a son of Officer who is owned by Jeff Singer. The colt is a recent addition to McLaughlin’s barn and the Gotham will be his third start as a 3-year-old and the first on dirt. He ran last in the grade III El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate, where he gave way in the stretch and finished fourth.

There is a chance of rain in New York on Saturday.
$290,000 Super Saver filly at Midlantic Sale Day 1 title=
Super Saver

$290,000 Super Saver filly at Midlantic Sale Day 1

A Super Saver filly brought $290,000 during the first day of the May 22-23 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training sale...

[read more]

Beautifully-bred Bodemeister filly scores at Monmouth Park title=
Bodemeister

Beautifully-bred Bodemeister filly scores at Monmouth Park

Waitingforaspark graduated from the maiden ranks in her second lifetime start Sunday at Monmouth Park...

[read more]

American Anthem speeds to victory in Grade 3 Laz Barrera S. title=
Bodemeister

American Anthem speeds to victory in Grade 3 Laz Barrera S.

One week after Always Dreaming captured the Kentucky Derby (G1), Bodemeister chalked up another graded stakes-winning 3-year-old colt when American Anthem won the $100,000 Lazaro Barrera S. (G3)...

[read more]

Speightstown colt towers over rivals in Queenston S. win title=
Speightstown

Speightstown colt towers over rivals in Queenston S. win

Yorkton became Speightstown's 81st lifetime stakes winner on Saturday with an impressive, 3 1/2-length, front-running score in the $125,000 Queenston S. at Woodbine...

[read more]

Bodemeister colt is a “Dream” come true in Kentucky Derby (G1) 143 title=
Bodemeister

Bodemeister colt is a “Dream” come true in Kentucky Derby (G1) 143

Always Dreaming put on a terrific display over a wet race track in Saturday's $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1), winning the first leg of the Triple Crown by 2 3/4-lengths...

[read more]

Bowies Hero goes last to first in Singletary S. title=
Artie Schiller

Bowies Hero goes last to first in Singletary S.

Bowies Hero overcame a less than ideal start in Saturday's $75,000 Singletary S., but the 3-year-old Artie Schiller colt erased his early deficit with a stirring stretch run...

[read more]

Speightstown filly very game in Eight Belles S. (G2) win title=
Speightstown

Speightstown filly very game in Eight Belles S. (G2) win

Benner Island gallantly fought off the late charge of Union Strike to take the $200,000 Eight Belles S. (G2) by a head on a rainy Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs...

[read more]

Overanalyze leaps to top of Freshman Sire list title=
Overanalyze

Overanalyze leaps to top of Freshman Sire list

Analyze Your Luck became the second winner for his sire Overanalyze with a 2 1/4-length debut maiden special weight victory Friday at Aqueduct...

[read more]

Pioneerof the Nile's Classic Empire favored for Kentucky Derby (G1) title=
Pioneerof the Nile

Pioneerof the Nile's Classic Empire favored for Kentucky Derby (G1)

Pioneerof the Nile's Classic Empire was made the morning line favorite in Saturday's $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1), which drew a full field of 20 3-year-olds...

[read more]

Always Dreaming set to go from post five in Kentucky Derby (G1) title=
Bodemeister

Always Dreaming set to go from post five in Kentucky Derby (G1)

Bodemeister's brilliant 3-year-old colt Always Dreaming will break from post five in the $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1), which drew a full field of 20...

[read more]