Haynesfield's connections avoid talk of Derby
OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- When a 3-year-old puts together a three-race winning streak and/or registers an impressive speed figure he becomes fodder for Kentucky Derby discussion.
But the connections of Haynesfield - a 3-year-old who has three straight victories and one triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure - will let everybody else do the talking for now. As far as Derby discussions among themselves go, they claim none has taken place.
"We get excited just because how well he's done and he's won his last three," Toby Sheets, assistant trainer to Steve Asmussen, said Monday morning. The Kentucky Derby, Sheets said, "has not been mentioned one time" other than in the press.
"Who wouldn't love to have a horse with that kind of talent?" said Carol Seaver, racing manager for Harvey Weinstein's Turtle Bird Stable. "But we'll take one race at a time."
Certainly, Haynesfield is a long way from securing a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 2. But his off-the-pace victory in Saturday's Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct will force his connections into having to make some decisions in the coming weeks.
Will Haynesfield remain in New York and compete in races like the Whirlaway on Feb. 7 and/or Grade 3 Gotham on March 7, or will he ship out of town to meet tougher 3-year-olds than he has met to date?
The only decision that had been made as of Monday was that Haynesfield will remain in New York to train for now. Weather can often be a deterrent for training in the Northeast, though Monday's pleasant 42-degree temperature belied that notion. Then again, a wintry mix was forecast for Tuesday into Wednesday.
Visually, Haynesfield's 3 1/2-length victory in the Count Fleet was not as eye-catching as was his 5 1/4-length romp in the Damon Runyon Stakes, for which he earned a gaudy Beyer Figure of 101. But Haynesfield demonstrated he could win from off the pace, and he did defeat open company for the first time, despite lugging in a bit in the stretch. Haynesfield earned a Beyer Figure of 88 for the win.
"It was not as visually impressive as his last race, but he still got the job done," Sheets said. "Bounce factor and all kinds of other things, I thought going into the race," he said, noting that Haynesfield's Beyer from the Damon Runyon was 19 points higher than what he had earned in his previous race, and that the colt was coming back in less than four weeks for the Count Fleet. "It was nice to see him relax off the pace a little bit.''
Sheets confirmed that Haynesfield nicked himself on his left hind foot, but that it was no big deal. He said no decision on where the horse would run next would be made until after he returns to training.
If Haynesfield stays here for the Whirlaway, two of his competitors figure to be Cellar Dweller and Tranquil Manner, 3-year-olds who won two-turn maiden races last week.
Justwhistledixie likely heading south
Justwhistledixie, a 3 1/2-length winner of Sunday's $70,795 Ruthless Stakes, will likely join trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's south Florida stable and point for Gulfstream Park's series of races for 3-year-old fillies, part-owner Terry Finley said Monday.
Finley, who heads West Point Thoroughbreds, which owns Justwhistledixie along with R.D. Hubbard and Lewis Lakin, said he would like to stretch the filly out a little more in distance. Gulfstream's series includes the Grade 2, $150,000 Forward Gal at seven furlongs on Jan. 30; the Grade 2, $150,000 Davona Dale at a mile on March 1; and the Grade 2, $200,000 Bonnie Miss at 1 1/8 miles on March 27.
Justwhistledixie won the Ruthless from off the pace as she chased Indian Rush through quick early fractions and then took over inside the three-sixteenths pole. She ran six furlongs in 1:10.81 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 88. It was her third straight victory.
Finley said jockey Rajiv Maragh told him the filly had to work harder than expected to keep in stalking position of Indian Rush.
"That would lead us to believe going seven-eighths or a mile she's going to be a little more comfortable," Finley said.
Meanwhile, Finley said that Mr. Fantasy, a 3-year-old New York-bred colt who won his debut by 10 1/4 lengths with a 97 Beyer, will remain in New York and point to the Grade 2, $250,000 Gotham on March 7.
Elliott, Lebron head elsewhere
The crowded Aqueduct jockey colony lost two of its members last week, as Stewart Elliott and Victor Leron have decided to vacate the premises.
Elliott, who is just four wins shy of 4,000 for his career, will stay at Philadelphia Park, confirmed agent Joe Rosen. Rosen said Elliott just wants to "stay closer to home." Last winter, Elliott was the fourth-leading rider at the inner track primarily because he was riding virtually everything for Asmussen. That was not the case this year, as Ramon Dominguez has unofficially moved into that spot. This winter, Elliott was 5 for 28 over the inner track.
Lebron, the seventh-leading rider in the country in wins in 2008, moved back to Turfway Park, where he accrued the bulk of those victories. Lebron went 3 for 38 over the inner track, but is already atop the Turfway standings with 7 wins from 37 mounts.
* Kip Deville, the 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile winner and 2008 BC Mile runner-up, worked five furlongs in 1:03.10 over Aqueduct's inner track Saturday morning. It was his first breeze since returning from Hong Kong, where he finished ninth in the Hong Kong Mile.
Kip Deville will soon join the bulk of trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.'s south Florida stable at Palm Meadows. A possible next target for Kip Deville is the Grade 1, $250,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 1.
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