That question was answered emphatically Oct. 2 at Belmont Park, as the son of Speightstown went wire-to-wire while never being challenged in a shocking four-length win under Ramon Dominguez. The 4-year-old colt opened up a seven-length advantage at the eighth pole and a late charge from odds-on favorite Blame was the only thing that made the race even remotely interesting.
Sent off at 7-1, Haynesfield won for the third time in four tries this season and earned his first grade I victory. It was also his fifth victory in six lifetime starts on the Belmont main track. Steve Asmussen trains the chestnut colt for Turtle Bird Stable. Haynesfield was bred in New York by Barry Weisbord and Margaret Santulli.
Blame, who had not lost in his last five starts and was undefeated in three starts this season, settled for second as the 4-5 choice under Garrett Gomez. Fly Down was two lengths farther back in third in a field of six.
In a race without much early speed on paper, Haynesfield easily grabbed the lead at the start and was unchallenged through easy splits of :24.63, :48.74, 1:13.24, and 1:37.06. Rail Trip, breaking from the outside under Cornelio Velazquez in his first start on dirt, was the closest to the leader but was two to four lengths back for most of the way. Hold Me Back was just behind Rail Trip in third.
Meanwhile, Blame raced in fourth while much farther back and by the time Haynesfield hit the quarter pole with a commanding lead, it was too late for the son of Arch. Haynesfield showed no signs of slowing down with a furlong left to go and coasted to the wire with Dominguez remaining motionless on the winner.
The final time for 10 furlongs on the fast track was 2:02.48.
“It was clear that he was the speed in the race," Dominguez said. "So I just did my best to try and slow him down because he was pretty eager. I was so amazed when he hit the half-mile pole and switched to his left lead, the way he wanted to sprint from there. I wasn’t sure what to do because I didn’t want to discourage him, but I didn’t want him to open up even more on the field because it was too early in the race. So, I just slightly let him out some and then when he switched back to his right turning for home, he still had so much left in him."
As a 3-year-old, Haynesfield was a winner of four of six races, including the Discovery Handicap (gr. III) last November at Aqueduct. He began his 2010 season with an optional claiming win in June and a decisive score in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) in July—both at Belmont. In his last outing prior to the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he tired to finish 11 1/4 lengths behind Blame in the Aug. 7 Whitney Handicap (gr. I). Haynesfield might have been compromised in that race by breaking through the gate prior to the start.
The $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs could be next for Haynesfield.
“(The BC Classic) is absolutely under consideration but we’ll have to wait and see how he goes back to the track," Asmussen said.
One horse that is definately headed to the BC Classic, if healthy, is Blame. It was clear that he was compromised by a slow pace in the JCGC.
“There’s not much you can do," said trainer Al Stall Jr. "That was another one of those races that was out of control. It reminded me of the (Super Derby, gr. II, last year when Blame finished second after a slow pace) and we did well after that. You can’t win ‘em all. We’re in good shape though. He’s had quite a bit of time off, so we’ll be OK. We’ll be all right.”
Fly Down also appears on target for the BC Classic.
“Haynesfield is a pretty good horse; he likes this track,” said Nick Zito, trainer of Fly Down. “If everything goes well, we would like to go to the (Classic). He’s a mile-and-a-quarter horse.”
Now 9-1-1 from 13 lifetime starts, Haynesfield has earned $1,116,981. He is out of the Tejabo mare Nothing Special.
He paid $17, $5.10, and $3. The exacta (6-2) returned $37.20 and the trifecta (6-2-1) was worth $68.50.
Hold Me Back finished fourth, followed by Rail Trip, and Tranquil Manner. Mythical Power and Dry Martini were scratched.