When Haynesfield won four consecutive races from September 2008 through February 2009, there were some who believed that the New York-bred son of Speightstown was a legitimate Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) prospect.
But those hopes were dashed in March when Haynesfield turned in a dull eighth-place finish in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont in his first graded stakes try. Trainer Steve Asmussen shelved the chestnut colt for nearly seven months before returning him to action in October, where he has turned in two solid efforts, including a wire-to-wire victory in the restricted Empire Classic Stakes at Belmont.
Asmussen now believes Haynesfield is ready for another try against graded company, and has entered him in the $100,000-added Discovery Handicap (gr. III) for 3-year-olds going nine furlongs at Aqueduct. A field of six was drawn for the Nov. 21 program feature.
Haynesfield, who will have the services of leading New York rider Ramon Dominguez, has won three of four starts at Aqueduct, including a 6 1/4-length romp in the Whirlaway Stakes Feb. 7. Bred by Barry Weisbord and Margaret Santulli, Haynesfield is owned by Turtle Bird Stable. He has earned $354,381 from eight starts.
“It’s the next step, and we’ll see how it goes,” said Toby Sheets, assistant to Asmussen. “He worked well on (Nov. 16) and we know he likes Aqueduct.”
The 122-pound high weight and even-money morning-line choice is Phipps Stable’s Gone Astray, back-to-back winner of the Pennsylvania and Ohio Derbies, both grade II races. In the Sept. 7 Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park, Gone Astray ran away from the field for a 9 1/4-length score for his first black-type win.
A 3-year-old son of Dixie Union, Gone Astray has really come into his own in the latter part of the season after trainer Shug McGaughey tried him around two turns. He had a pair of narrow misses in stakes action this summer before breaking through in his last two. In April, Gone Astray raced at Aqueduct twice, winning in allowance company and finishing a distant third in the Withers (gr. III).
"I really thought he was a come-from-behind sprinter, but I thought I'd try and ease him into a softer spot around two turns at Monmouth (in the Coronado's Quest) and he ran great that day," McGaughey said. "Then he came back in the mile and an eighth (Curlin Stakes) at Saratoga and I thought he ran great there, too. After the Pennsylvania Derby I worried I was running him back a little quick, but now he's had his time and he’s training good.”
Eddie Castro, aboard for both graded stakes victories, will be back in the saddle once again.
Others in the mix are Darley Stable’s Precursor, a son of A.P. Indy who led from start to finish in the Proud Truth Stakes in the Aqueduct slop Oct. 28, and Bad Action, a former $35,000 claimer who broke through in the Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) at Meadowlands Nov. 6 for trainer Gary Contessa. Bad Action was runner-up to Precursor in the Proud Truth prior to that.
$100,000 Discovery Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 3:44 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Redding Colliery (KY), J R Velazquez, 115, K P McLaughlin
2. Bad Action (FL), D Cohen, 118, G C Contessa
3. Birdrun (FL), A Garcia, 115, W I Mott
4. Haynesfield (NY), R A Dominguez, 117, S M Asmussen
5. Gone Astray (KY), E Castro, 122, C R McGaughey III
6. Precursor (KY), R Maragh, 118, T Albertrani