Racing in graded stakes company for the first time since disappointing in the Gotham (gr. III) this spring, Haynesfield looked like a completely different 3-year-old this time around, as he took over approaching the quarter-pole and easily repelled odds-on favorite Gone Astray to win the $103,500 Discovery Handicap (gr. III) by 4 1/2 lengths (VIDEO) Nov. 21 at Aqueduct.
A New York-bred son of Speightstown, Haynesfield was on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) radar of some entering the March 7 Gotham, also at Aqueduct. But he finished eighth in that race and was then shelved for nearly seven months by trainer Steve Asmussen. A pair of solid return efforts last month at Belmont indicated that Haynesfield was ready for a big effort in the nine-furlong Discovery.
Under the handling of Ramon Dominguez, Haynesfield received a perfect stalking trip behind pacesetter Redding Colliery, who was uncontested on the lead with John Velazquez aboard. The order barely changed in the early stages, with Haynesfield pressing in second, Bad Action and 3-5 favorite Gone Astray racing in tandem in the next group, and Birdrun, who stumbled badly at the break, trailing. Redding Colliery’s pace was comfortable, posting fractions of :24.25, :48.84, and 1:13.46.
Haynesfield made his winning move when circling the far turn, as he breezed past the longtime leader from a three-wide position. Gone Astray, who entered the race off back-to-back wins in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) and Ohio Derby (gr. II), also made his bid firther on the outside and was second when they straightened away.
But the public’s choice was no match for Haynesfield, who had a two-length advantage at the eighth-pole and extended his lead in the stretch. Bad Action rallied well for second under David Cohen, outlasting Gone Astray by a neck. The final time on a fast main track was 1:50.10.
“We weren’t in a real hurry,” Dominguez said. “We said if (Redding Colliery) or (Birdrun) wanted to go, we would let them go. Since my horse broke so good, I was going to let him go to the lead, but (Redding Colliery) went on and I decided to just sit off him. He was very relaxed. When it was time to pick it up, he was there for me.”
Haynesfield entered the Discovery off a victory in the Empire Classic Stakes at Belmont Oct. 24. Three weeks prior to that he was runner-up in the Sir Keys Stakes over the same going when returning from his lengthy layoff.
Haynesfield improved his record to 6-1-1 from nine starts and bumped his earnings to $417,681. Owned by Turtle Bird Stable, he was bred by Barry Weisbord and Margaret Santulli, and is out of the Tejabo mare Nothing Special.
The chestnut colt won for the fourth time in five tries at Aqueduct.
“He’s got a very high cruising speed, it looks like to me,” said Asmussen’s assistant Toby Sheets. “We thought that last year, but he was a little immature. He’s definitely grown into himself. It’s nice to have the privilege of a horse like this. No thoughts whatsoever as to what’s next; we’ll see how he comes out of it and go from there.”
Sent off as the second choice, Haynesfield paid $9.90, $5.20, and $2.60. The exacta (4-2) returned $79, and the trifecta (2-4-5) was $143.50.
Redding Colliery was fourth, followed by Birdrun. Precursor was scratched.