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Haynesfield takes McMahon - Adena Empire Classic

Saturday, October 22, 2011
ELMONT, N.Y. – Haynesfield made a triumphant return to the winner’s circle at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon, taking the lead at the top of the stretch and holding off a resurgent Green Monster to win the 36th running of the $200,000 McMahon Adena Empire Classic on New York Showcase Day.

It was the first victory in three starts this year for Haynesfield, who had not run since a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 30. Owned by Turtle Bird Stable, the 5-year-old son of Speightstown won the 2009 Empire Classic as a 3-year-old and had an outstanding year in 2010, winning the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap and finishing second in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year,” said Toby Sheets, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen. “His feet have bugged him a lot. We finally got it back together and he’s been training really well. We’re happy to have him back.”

Ridden by Ramon Dominguez, Haynesfield settled in third as Green Monster took the field of eight New York-breds through a quarter-mile in 24.05 seconds and a half in 47.38. Moving up in tandem with Johannesburg Smile, the duo blew past the pacesetter on the turn and Haynesfield straightened for home with a clear lead. Green Monster battled back to challenge in deep stretch, but Haynesfield dug in to hit the wire a length in front.

“He got a little tired the last eighth,” said Dominguez of Haynesfield, who completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.08. “Just when [Green Monster] came to him, for a second I thought he was going to go by him. [My horse] kept sticking his neck out in front, and I felt he wasn’t really too happy about letting him go by.”

Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, Haynesfield returned $3.70 for a $2 win bet as he lifted his career record to 10-2-1 from 18 starts. The winner’s purse of $120,000 extended his earnings to $1,306,981.

Johannesburg Smile finished third, another 1 ½ lengths back, with Icabad Crane fourth.

In the first of the day’s seven stakes for state-breds, Risky Rachel came from just off the pace to overtake favored Lovely Lil in midstretch and go on to a 2 ¼-length victory in the $125,000 Friendly Island Iroquois for fillies and mares.

Ridden by Javier Castellano, the homebred 4-year-old daughter of Limehouse completed the seven furlongs in 1:23.14 as she notched her third victory in four starts this year and earned $75,000 for owner Sanford Bacon.

“I think the weight advantage, 124 to 117 pounds, might have helped,” said winning trainer H. James Bond of Risky Rachel, who returned $7.50 for a $2 win bet as the second choice in the field of eight. “She just sat there, and when Javier asked her, she finished on. Mr. [Sanford] Bacon is a new client in the barn this year; he had always told me he’d give me a horse one day. He gave me a pretty nice horse.”

Night Manuever, one of four Flying Zee Stables color-bearers in the $100,000 Bertram F. Bongard, kept his record unblemished with a front-running effort in the seven-furlong race for 2-year-olds.

Trained by Carlos Martin and ridden by Ryan Curatolo, the gelded son of Orientate shadowed stablemate The Prize Fighter through an opening quarter-mile in 23.47 seconds. Taking over as the half went in 47.44, Night Manuever drew clear to a 1 ½-length victory over Jaw Crusher, with The Prize Fighter and Flying Zee’s Western Tryst finishing third and fourth.

As part of the favored Flying Zee entry, Night Manuever returned $4.60 for a $2 win bet as he stretched his record to three wins in as many starts.

“Today, he broke running and the kid let him get out there and didn’t fight him,” said Martin of Night Manuever, whose winning time was 1:23.56. “It seems like he’s push-button. We’ll take him to Aqueduct and look at some better races, as long as he keeps improving. I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t stretch out.”

General Maximus wore down Dr Disco to win the $125,000 Posse Hudson for a second straight year.

After settling in third as Dr Disco ran the opening quarter-mile in 22.26 seconds, General Maximus moved up to engage the pacesetter through a half in 44.96 and gradually gained the upper hand in the stretch to prevail by one length under Corey Nakatani.

It was General Maximus’ first victory since last year’s Hudson. The 4-year-old ridgling had entered this year’s race off three starts in optional claimers, having finished fourth at in February at Gulfstream Park, second to eventual Grade 1 winner Giant Ryan in May at Belmont Park, and fourth in June at Monmouth Park.

“It took him a while to get back to form,” said winning trainer John Terranova. “He’s had some little mishaps, thankfully nothing serious. We have great owners behind him. That’s the key. They had the patience to wait it out until we had him back at 100 percent. We’re hoping we have a nice, fresh horse for the winter.”

General Maximus – owned by Goldmark Farm, Michael Imperio, and Elizabeth Loftus – was clocked in 1:09.58 for six furlongs and returned $10.40 as the third choice.

In the $100,000 Joseph A. Gimma in Memory of Fleet Indian, Bellacourt upset 10 other juvenile fillies to earn her first stakes victory. Sitting just off the early speed, she overtook the pacesetters in the stretch and held off a late charge from Wildcat’s Smile to win by a half-length with a final time of 1:24.44 for seven furlongs.

A daughter of Lion Heart, Bellacourt broke her maiden at Saratoga Race Course on July 31, and finished third in the Grade 2 Adirondack two weeks later. Brought back against statebreds in the Ann Clare Stakes on September 1, Bellacourt finished fifth and was given several weeks freshening after that effort.

“We ran her back too soon at Saratoga, got the inside draw, and that killed us,” said Jim Lawrence, who trains Bellacourt for George and Stephanie Autry. “She was really on the muscle her last race and never got a break. We took her home to Fair Hill and turned her out for three weeks. We got her back and jogged a week, and I had time to get a couple breezes in her. I was concerned because I waited so long to start her back after that race, but she responded well. We’ll take a deep breath and enjoy this one. We may run her once more and then put her away for next year. She’s a really nice filly and we want to do what’s right for her.”

A 9-1 outsider ridden by Corey Nakatani, who won two stakes on the Showcase Day card, Bellacourt returned $20 and boosted her own earnings to $101,550. Lender’s Way completed the trifecta, followed by Cute Cadet, Motion Lounge, Undaunted Ella, Harbor Mist, Shot Gun Pennie, Victory Island, Color Blind, and Newbie.

With a sixteenth of a mile to go, the late-running Hessonite rolled past favored Gitchee Goomie and on to a 1 ¼-length victory in the $125,000 Justenuffhumor Ticonderoga, stopping the clock at 1:45.87 for 1 1/16 miles.

“She is a very cool filly,” said winning jockey Ramon Dominguez. “Regardless of how [fast or slow] the pace is, she is capable of relaxing off any fractions. She’s got a great, quick turn of foot when you need her. Looking at the race, both [trainer David Donk] and I agreed that there was not really much pace on paper. And sure enough, they went very comfortably. She happened to be laying a little closer than she has been with me in the past. But still, turning for home, they were staying together. I was already on the outside, and I chose to go after them on the turn where I was extremely wide. The filly that ran second was picking it up pretty good at that point. But my filly just took off the last part. I don’t know how fast she came home but the last sixteenth was pretty fast.”

Hessonite entered the Ticonderoga just 12 days after a runner-up finish in the open-company Pebbles Stakes, where she was re-routed when the John Hettinger for New York-breds came off the grass on September 25. With Saturday’s victory, her third in a stakes, she is now 5-1-1 from 10 starts with $272,310 in career earnings for William Punk, Jr. and Philip DiLeo.

Frivolous Buck edged Rogue’s Jewel for third, and Mystic City, Akilina, Exclusive Scheme, Risk a Chance, Mineralogist and Centrina completed the order of finish.  

Donk said that the Ticonderoga would likely be Hessonite’s last race for the season and revealed that he planned to turn her out for several months and then prepare the Freud filly for a 4-year-old campaign.

“Really, really good race,” said Donk. “They finished really fast and beating a really good older filly like Gitchee Goomie bodes well for the future.

LaMarca Stable’s Compliance Officer remained unbeaten in five starts for trainer Bruce Brown with a five-length score over longshot Lubash in the $125,000 Bluegrass Cat Mohawk at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

Content to race behind horses in fourth through six furlongs in 1:13.97, Compliance Officer was taken outside by jockey Alex Solis to unleash his stretch run, which saw him power clear under a hand ride.

It was the third stakes win for Compliance Officer, who won the West Point on August 18 at Saratoga and the Ashley T. Cole on September 11 at Belmont. He was claimed by his current collections for $25,000 in May.

Compliance Officer, who completed the distance over yielding turf in 1:43.93 and paid $3.70 as the 4-5 favorite, will now be pointed toward a start in the Claiming Crown Emerald on December 3 at the Fair Grounds, Brown said.

“The way this horse keeps running, it’s not only that he’s been winning but he keeps doing it so impressively,” said Brown. “Usually with these horses, they kind of come in and out, but he’s just been bringing his ‘A’ game every time. It’s mainly him. He trains himself, pretty much.”

Earlier on the card, Brown had been narrowly denied victories when Dr Disco and Green Monster respectively finished second in the Posse Hudson and McMahon Adena Empire Classic.

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