Haynesfield, the 2009 Empire Classic winner, posted his first win of the season, and notched his sixth lifetime victory at Belmont. Ramon Dominguez was aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen as the 4-5 favorite ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.08 on the fast track.
Turtle Bird Stable owns Haynesfield, who won for the 10th time in 18 career starts and has now earned $1,306,981. The 5-year-old is by Speightstown out of the Tejabo mare Nothing Special. He was bred by Barry Weisbord and Margaret Santulli.
Winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and Suburban Handicap (gr. II) in 2010 at Belmont, Haynesfield was making only his third start in an injury-plagued season.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year,” said Asmussen’s assistant Toby Sheets. “His feet have bugged him a lot. We finally got it back together and he’s been training really well. He got a little bit tired today, but he ran his race and dug in. We’re happy to have him back. We worked with him a lot in the mornings to try and get him to relax; worked him behind horses and stuff, and it worked out.”
Haynesfield, a stalking third in the early going, looked like an easy winner after putting away Johannesburg Smile at the top of the lane. But Green Monster, who set the pace but was easily passed on the final turn, re-rallied under Alex Solis and cut into Haynesfield’s lead in the late stages. Haynesfield, after drifting in and out in deep stretch, found enough to hold off his game challenger.
Green Monster settled for second at 11-1, 1 1/2 lengths better than Johannesburg Smile.
“I was very pleased with how well my horse relaxed,” Dominguez said. “It wasn’t that he was flat. He was just relaxed, on the bridle, but very relaxed. He got a little tired the last eighth. Just when (Green Monster) came to him, for a second I thought he was going to go by him. He kept sticking his neck in front, and I felt he wasn’t really too happy about letting him go by. He still galloped out pretty strong, so I’m very happy with him, especially off the layoff.”
Haynesfield paid $3.70, $3, and $2.30. Green Monster returned $6.90 and $4.50. Johannesburg Smile paid $3.10 to show. The exacta (4-2) was worth $29.80.