Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher considered entering as many as four starters for the $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III) March 5 at Aqueduct. It’s a good thing for their rivals that they didn’t, as the powerful connections would have had half the field.
The Tom Fool goes as race five on an Aqueduct program highlighted by the $250,000 Gotham (gr. III) Stakes. The race, which was not run in 2009, returns to Aqueduct for the first time since 1976 after being run most recently at Belmont Park.
Calibrachoa has won three consecutive starts—all at Aqueduct—since being claimed by Pletcher for Repole for $40,000 last November. The 4-year-old Southern Image colt won the Gravesend Stakes to end his 2010 campaign and opened up this season in style by scoring the Jan. 22 Toboggan (gr. III) by a half-length as the 2-5 favorite in his graded-stakes debut.
Leading rider Ramon Dominguez was aboard Calibrachoa for the Toboggan and will be again for the Tom Fool, as they will break from post 6. Bred in Kentucky by Nelson Bunker Hunt and out of the Montbrook mare Fort Lauderdale, Calibrachoa will carry top weight of 119 pounds.
“He’s a real professional, generous horse,” said Jonathan Thomas, assistant to Pletcher, who won this event in 2009 with Munnings . “It was an astute claim and he came to us in excellent shape. He’s campaigned up to this race like we wanted, and he seems to be happy wherever the race puts him.”
Maryland-bred Have You Ever has not fared as well as his stablemate since being claimed out of a $50,000 event Jan. 9. He finished sixth in that race, then was a disappointing fifth as the 3-2 favorite in a Feb. 11 optional claimer at Aqueduct.
Have You Ever, by Van Nistelrooy, has won five of 22 starts in his career and will be making his stakes debut. The 5-year-old gelding will be ridden by Victor Santiago.
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Flat Bold and James Barry’s Dahlgren Chapel both come out of wins in their last starts. Flat Bold won a Jan. 28 optional claimer at Aqueduct at six furlongs for his fourth career win. As a 3-year-old in 2009, Flat Bold ran fourth to Kenseiin the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II).
Flat Bold had Dominguez aboard for that last score, but trainer Tom Albertrani has assigned Eddie Castro to ride in the Tom Fool.
Dahlgren Chapel has won consecutive six-furlong allowance races at Aqueduct for Kiaran McLaughlin this year, the last one coming Feb. 10. The consistent 4-year-old son of Chapel Royal has produced a 4-5-1 record from 11 starts. David Cohen will be in the irons.
“He’s really improved this year after a vacation at Kenny Lejeune’s farm in Ocala,” said Artie Magnuson, assistant to McLaughlin. “Kenny has really taken this horse under his wing and we think this is a good opportunity to step it up a little and take a shot.”
$150,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III, Race 5, 2:52 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Deputy Daney (FL), J Rose, 115, H I McMahon
2. Fastus Cactus (FL), J L Espinoza, 112, N Chatterpaul
3. Have You Ever (MD), V Santiago, 113, T A Pletcher
4. Dahlgren Chapel (NY), D Cohen, 114, K P McLaughlin
5. Flat Bold (KY), E Castro, 114, T Albertrani
6. Calibrachoa (KY), R A Dominguez, 119, T A Pletcher