Trainer Peter Miller has shipped grade I winner Comma to the Top east for a start against nine other experienced rivals in the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II) March 2 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The only previous start outside of California for Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, and Kevin Tsujihara's Comma to the Top was a 19th-place finish in the 2011 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). While Comma to the Top registered his biggest win to date as a juvenile, taking the 2010 CashCall Futurity (gr. I), the Bwana Charlie gelding has placed in three straight graded stakes, including a clear victory in the Daytona Stakes (gr. III) to close out last year at Santa Anita Park.
The Tom Fool would be a quick turnaround for Comma to the Top, who finished third after setting the pace in the San Carlos Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs Feb. 23 at Santa Anita.
"I can't remember ever (running a horse in a pair of graded stakes within a week)," Miller said. "It's unorthodox, but he's a unique horse. The owner asked me how (the horse) was doing, and he was eating well and his energy level was good. (The owner) then asked if there was any reason for us to not go (to the Tom Fool), and I said there wasn't. He's not your average horse, and there aren't a lot of big races for sprinters."
Joel Rosario has the call aboard Comma to the Top, 3-1, from post 2.
Bred in Florida by Richard and Linda Thompson, Comma to the Top will try to secure the seventh stakes win of his career in the Tom Fool.
While the expected includes several other multiple stakes winners, Godolphin Racing's Consortium looms a threat to pick up the first stakes win of his career. The 4-year-old Bernardini colt enters off a clear victory in an allowance/optional claiming race at the Tom Fool distance of six furlongs, Jan. 19 at Aqueduct.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he hopes the Tom Fool serves as a springboard to the $400,000 Carter Handicap (gr. I) April 6. Consortium, 10-1, will leave from post 6 with Eddie Castro aboard.
In his 50th career start, Head Heart Hoof became a first-time graded stakes winner when he took the Toboggan (gr. III) Feb. 2 at Aqueduct. The 7-year-old gelding will attempt to double his graded stakes tally when he faces Toboggan runner-up Johannesburg Smile. Both are pegged at 5-1.
In the Toboggan, Head Heart Hoof contested the pace in second from the outside post, opened a two-length lead in the stretch after dispatching the other front-runner and staved off Johannesburg Smile's late bid to win by a diminishing half length.
Head Heart Hoof drew an outside post once again in the Tom Fool as he will be leaving from post 9.
"The post helped him last time," said Rodriguez, who trains the gelding for a partnership headed by Michael Dubb. "He likes the inner track, which is why he's running his best races now. We're lucky to have him around."
Smash, second in the 2011 Carry Back Stakes (gr. II) at Calder, is another West Coast shipper. He returned from an 11-month absence to finish fifth in the Vernon Underwood (gr. III) Dec. 2 at Betfair Hollywood Park. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for Kaleem Shah, the 5-year-old will be making his second start off the layoff in the Tom Fool.
"He just gets a little jarred up," said Baffert of Smash. "He's a very small horse. We've freshened him up. Hopefully, he'll run well and like it there. He always runs well off the bench. We've got to get these horses separated a little bit."
$200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II, race 9, approximate post time 4:34 p.m. EST) 3YO & Up, six furlongs
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Be Bullish (NY), M. Luzzi, 114, D. Jacobson
2. Comma to the Top (FL), J. Rosario, 118, P. Miller
3. Saturday's Charm (KY), J. Alvarado, 115, S. Asmussen
4. Johannesburg Smile (NY), J. Velazquez, 116, T. Pletcher
5. Heart Butte (KY), C. DeCarlo, 116, T. Pletcher
6. Consortium (KY), E. Castro, 114, K. McLaughlin
7. St Liams Halo (FL), J. Ortiz, 114, G. Contessa
8. Off the Jak (FL), W. Martinez, 117, B. Parboo
9. Head Heart Hoof (NY), C. Velasquez, 117, R. Rodriguez
10. Smash (KY), I. Ortiz Jr., 116, B. Baffert