It’s still a long way to the first Saturday in May, but Turtle Bird Stable’s Haynesfield is at least heading in the right direction.
The Speightstown colt picked up his third consecutive victory Jan. 3, warding off a stiff mid-stretch challenge from Mike From Queens and drawing off to a 3 1/2-length victory in the 34th running of the $69,700 Count Fleet Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile and 70 yards on Aqueduct’s fast inner dirt track.
Starting a campaign that will hopefully take him to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) at Churchill Downs May 2, Haynesfield did exactly what his connections wanted him to do – relax early.
With jockey Ramon Dominguez up, Haynesfield sat off Aswaaq’s initial quarter of a mile of :23.02 and a half of :46.68, responded to a tap on the turn and made an outside run at Mike from Queens, who had taken the lead.
The two battled through the lane before Haynesfield eventually got his act together and delivered as the post-time favorite. The race was not as flashy as his 5 1/4-length gate-to-wire victory here against fellow New York-breds in the Damon Runyon Stakes Dec. 7.
His winning time in the Count Fleet, his first start in open company, was 1:44.67; it was 1:42.51 for the same distance in the Damon Runyon.
“The race was very nice; I mean, he won,” said Toby Sheets, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. “It wasn’t visually as impressive as last time and the competition was a little bit different, but he won.”
The most positive aspects of Haynesfield’s Count Fleet victory are that he was able to rate and, unlike his previous wins where he was alone on the lead, demonstrated that he can stand up to a challenge.
“Obviously, it was a very different trip than last time,” Dominguez said of Haynesfield, who paid $3 to win. “I didn’t want to push him. He relaxed nicely. It was just a matter of getting in the clear. He tried to lug in – he did the same thing last time. I was aware that we were following quick fractions. When it was time to pick it up, he did.”
Jess Not Jesse got up to nose the tired Mike From Queens for the place. Pitched Perfectly and Awaaq trailed. Bad Action and Smart Bid were scratched.