Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) winner Caleb's Posse will likely draw the most betting attention in the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III) March 3 at Aqueduct, but he will have to face a pair of multiple graded stakes winners with a fondness for the racetrack.
Caleb’s Posse was assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the six-furlong race over the inner track. A field of six was drawn, including grade I winner Capt. Candyman Can, who won the Bay Shore (gr. III) at Aqueduct in 2009, and Calibrachoa, a 5-year-old horse who is 6-for-7 at Aqueduct in his career and was the winner of this event a year ago.
Post time for the Tom Fool is slated for 4:34 p.m. EST, just prior to the Gotham (gr. III).
When last seen, McNeil Stables’ and Cheyenne Stables’ Caleb’s Posse was demolishing the field by four lengths in the Nov. 5 BC Mile at Churchill Downs. It capped off a near 3-year-old championship campaign for the son of Posse, as he won five of 10 starts—four of them in graded company. His other grade I win came in the Foxwoods King’s Bishop at Saratoga when running down champion Uncle Mo by a nose.
Trained by Donnie Von Hemel, 9-5 morning-line favorite Caleb’s Posse ships in to New York from Oaklawn Park, where he has worked steadily this winter. His last breeze was four furlongs on Feb. 19 when clocked in an easy :48. The bay colt will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh in his 17th start. He has already earned more than $1.15 million.
The Tom Fool is being used by Von Hemel as a prep to the $400,000 Carter Handicap (gr. I) April 7.
“It’s perfect timing," said Von Hemel. “The (Tom Fool) is situated where the Carter could remain our main goal, and this race fits. It would have been better if the (Tom Fool) was on the main track, but I suppose this will serve as prep for the process of getting to New York. We’ll go back home after this race.”
Rosemary Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can will wheel right back two weeks after finishing a well-beaten third to Force Freeze in the Feb. 18 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (gr. II). The 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding is a four-time graded stakes winner, including the 2009 King’s Bishop at Saratoga when he was elevated from second to first after the disqualification of Vineyard Haven. He won by nearly four lengths in the Bay Shore that year in his only start at Aqueduct.
Capt. Candyman Can is winless in four starts at six furlongs and seeks his first win since April 2011. Edgar Prado will have the mount for trainer Ian Wilkes and they will break from the rail.
Calibrachoa (2-1), a $40,000 claim by Todd Pletcher for Mike Repole in November 2010, is nearly unbeatable at Aqueduct. His lone setback in seven career tries there was in the grade I Cigar Mile Handicap two starts ago when third. But the 5-year-old Southern Image horse is 5-for-5 at six furlongs at Aqueduct, including a 4 1/2-length romp in last year’s Tom Fool. He scored in the Toboggan (gr. III) by 2 1/4 lengths Feb. 4 in his season debut, the second straight year he took that event.
“We’re happy the race is at Aqueduct on the inner track,” said Pletcher. “The thing we’re concerned about is how he tends to run really well every other race. This would be the ‘other’ race. We haven’t been able to alter that by giving him extra time between races, so we figured we’d run here and look at the Carter. If he doesn’t run his top race here, maybe he will in the Carter, but it seems like he’s doing well and looks good.”
Pletcher has won the last two runnings of the Tom Fool, as he also won with Munnings in 2009. The race was not run in 2010. Cornelio Velasquez gets the call this time.
Darley's Emcee, a 4-year-old who is undefeated and unchallenged in two starts including a six-length allowance win Feb. 3 at Gulfstream, makes his graded stakes debut.
“It’s a big step up,” admitted Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “He’s a very nice horse. We might as well find out sooner rather than later where he fits. We haven’t accomplished anything yet, so we got 114 pounds. He’s very fast, and there’s no time like the present to take a shot. We think we belong. If we don’t, we can adjust, but he’s as fast a horse as we’ve had in a long time.”
Justin Phillip is winless in his last four starts since scoring in the Woody Stephens (gr. II) last summer at Belmont.
Royal Currier ships in for trainer Patricia Farro after a sharp work at Parx Racing. The Red Bullet gelding was third in the Jan. 28 Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream.
$200,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 4:34 p.m.), 3YO and Up, 6 Furlongs (Inner dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds 1. Capt. Candyman Can (KY), E S Prado, 117, I R Wilkes, 10-1
2. Royal Currier (FL), R A Dominguez, 115, P Farro, 10-1
3. Justin Phillip (KY), E Trujillo, 116, S M Asmussen, 12-1
4. Emcee (KY), J R Velazquez, 114, K P McLaughlin, 5-2
5. Calibrachoa (KY), C H Velasquez, 118, T A Pletcher, 2-1
6. Caleb's Posse (KY), R Maragh, 122, D K Von Hemel, 9-5