Shadwell Stable's Almuhathir, who missed time over the summer because of nagging foot problems, figures to be a fair price Tuesday on Aqueduct's special Veterans' Day card when he starts in the $100,000 Stuyvesant (gr. III) at 1 1/8 mile.He'll be trying to turn the tables on Gander and Saarland, who both beat him in his return to the track. Almuhathir is best remembered in New York for his 98-1 shocker over Regal Sanction and Quest in a third-level allowance race at Belmont Park June 6. He won his next race as well before going to the sidelines."He's been happier with his feet," trainer Danny Peitz said. "We tried glue-on shoes in that race against Gander and that didn't seem to help a lot. He didn't show his normal zip. Usually, he puts himself into the race and that day he was coming from out of the clouds. We switched back to the nail-ons for the race against Saarland."When Almuhathir was a close second to Saarland last time, he was giving his rival four pounds. Tuesday he will get a pound. Also, Almuhathir was on the chase outside in that race and made a bid for the lead at the top of the stretch. Saarland sat just in behind the fracas and punched at the right time."It's a question whether he'll like two turns as much as one turn and Aqueduct as much as Belmont," Peitz said.
Saarland, owned by Cynthia Phipps, seems to always get bet around these parts and could be the Stuyvesant favorite. He has failed to win a stakes race in eight tries since scoring at this distance as a two-year-old in the Remsen.The Remsen is Saarland's only two-turn victory. As he has aged, it seems as though he is better going a one-turn route. He has won two allowances going a mile here on the main track and ran strong seconds behind Aldebaran and Najran in the Westchester and Met Mile.At 116 pounds, Saarland could be the highweight if Docent, who has been assigned 117 pounds, does not run. Trainer Tim Ritchey entered Docent in the Stuyvesant, but is also looking at the Mountaineer Mile in West Virginia.Docent, third behind Snake Mountain and Windsor Castle in last year's Stuyvesant, has won six of eight starts this year and is coming off a narrow victory in the Maryland Million Classic last month at Laurel."Our decision will depend on the weights at Mountaineer and the competition in both spots," Ritchey said. "Both races are for $100,000 and the graded status is not important because he's a gelding and his dam has been retired."Presidentialaffair, owned by Edward Ciresa and trained by his son, Martin, nearly upset Docent in the Maryland Million trying to go all the way on the lead. Ciresa originally trained the 4-year-old gelding for different owners, but they parted ways and when the Ciresa saw he was in for a $20,000 tag, Edward Ciresa claimed him. "He really has to have things his own way in the mornings and afternoons," Martin Ciresa said. "Sometimes, it takes him 45 minutes to train in the morning."Stretching out after spending most of his career as a sprinter, Presidentialaffair wired the field in a Monmouth optional claimer before almost stealing the Maryland Million. Ciresa, however, wanted to see the gelding come from slightly off the pace as he had done in sprints. Richard Migliore will replace Jockey Elvis Trujillo.Popular New York-bred Gander has been in top form this fall, winning a $58,000 allowance at Belmont and running a strong second behind favorite Well Fancied in the Empire Classic.Aaron Gryder takes over the reigns on Gander. John Velazquez has chosen to stick with Saarland in the Stuyvesant.Joseph Shields Jr.'s Justification has only finished off the board once in 11 starts on the main track at Aqueduct and exits a solid runner-up finish behind Snake Mountain in a Belmont allowance.El Gran Papa and Thunder Blitz, a pair of horses trained by Bobby Frankel through early October, will be making their first starts for different trainers. El Gran Papa is now conditioned by Tom Bush. Thunder Blitz goes out for Richard Dutrow Jr. $100,000 Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III), 3 & up, 1 1/8 mile
PP., HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Almuhathir, Danny Peitz, Heberto Castillo Jr., 115
2. El Gran Papa, Tom Bush, Jorge Chavez, 113
3. Justification, H. Allen Jerkens, Shaun Bridgmohan, 114
4. Presidentialaffair, Martin Ciresa, Richard Migliore, 114
5. Gander, John Terranova II, Aaron Gryder, 115
6. Thunder Blitz, Richard Dutrow Jr., Edgar Prado, 114
7. Docent, Tim Ritchey, Clinton Potts, 117
8. Saarland, Shug McGaughey, John Velazquez, 116