'Horse of the World' Ghostzapper Returns

(from Belmont Park report)
Defending Horse of the Year Ghostzapper will make his first start of 2005 Monday when he goes off the favorite in Belmont Park's traditional Memorial Day feature, the $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I).

Originally the Stronach Stables runner was scheduled to make his seasonal debut in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) last month, but a sinus problem prevented him from starting there. As a result, the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) champion makes his season debut in the high-stature Met Mile. He'll carry top weight of 123 pounds.

"The Breeders' Cup Classic was the best moment in my life," said jockey Javier Castellano, who has been up on Ghostzapper for eight of the colt's 10 starts. "I can't wait for him to run Monday. I've been waiting a long time."

Ghostzapper appears ready for his first start of the year. He has recorded 13 workouts since the end of January and Castellano has been aboard for the last two, a pair of solid six-furlong breezes at Belmont. Ghostzapper breezed in 1:11 4/5 and 1:13 1/5 in those efforts.

"His last two works have been so easy," Castellano said of the 1:11 4/5 and 1:13 1/5 breezes. "He's feeling great."

"I'll probably be more nervous than excited Monday," said trainer Bobby Frankel, who kept Ghostzapper in the barn all winter even when he wasn't in training. "If he's 90 percent fit, he should win. I think I have him fit enough. I'd be disappointed and a little surprised if he lost. He's 'Horse of the World.'"

Ghostzapper is not scheduled to leave New York until after the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup. Other planned starts this year include the July 2 Suburban (gr. I), Aug. 6 Whitney (gr. I) at Saratoga, and the Sept. 10 Woodward (gr. I), all of which are longer than a mile. Ghostzapper will not run in a sprint this year after making his first seven career starts in sprints.

"He's probably better going farther than six furlongs, but he's probably equally effective from seven furlongs to a mile and a half," Frankel said. "The big money races are not sprints, though."

Forest Danger, owned by Aaron and Marie Jones, is the biggest threat in the Met. The Forestry colt won the Carter Handicap (gr. I) in his last start, the second stakes victory of his career.

Forest Danger went the one-mile distance in the Withers (gr. II) last year when he finished second to Medallist, who was recently declared from the Met with a sesamoid injury.

"I don't think the Withers is a fair race to judge him off of," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He was coming back in three weeks that time, and he got hurt in the race. The thing I really liked about his Carter was that he galloped out very strongly afterwards, indicating that a mile is certainly within his scope."

The speedy Forest Danger actually came from off the pace in the Carter, a dimension he had not shown since breaking his maiden. Pletcher chalked that up to jockey Rafael Bejarano not knowing the horse all that well. Regular rider John Velazquez will be back aboard for the Met Mile.

Trainer Nick Zito is hoping a stretchout in distance will help Sir Shackleton regain top form after he was a disappointing fourth in the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) going seven furlongs.

"That race was way too fast," Zito said. "They ran three quarters in 1:07 4/5. He's a good miler, mile-and-a-sixteenth horse."

Pomeroy finished just in front of Sir Shackleton in the Churchill Downs Handicap making his second start of the year. After winning the King's Bishop (gr. I) last year, trainer Pat Biancone opted to put Pomeroy away for the rest of the year in hopes of having a top sprinter or miler this year.

Jay Em Ess Stable's Love of Money will come back in the Met Mile off short rest. Last year's runaway Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) winner returned off a layoff to score an easy win in the slop at Belmont Wednesday against an inferior group of allowance horses.

Silver Wagon, the 2003 Hopeful (gr. I) winner owned by Buckram Oak Farm, is looking for his first stakes victory since he was a juvenile. He won his 2005 debut, a second-level allowance at Gulfstream and was recently third in the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup (gr. II) at Keeneland.

$750,000 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I, Race 9, 2:35 p.m.), 3 & up, 1 mile
1. Sir Shackleton (KY), 116, Rafael Bejarano
2. Ghostzapper (KY), 123, Javier Castellano
3. Love of Money (MD), 116, Edgar Prado
4. Pomeroy (KY), 115, Gary Stevens
5. Silver Wagon (FL), 114, Cornelio Velasquez
6. Forest Danger (KY), 118, John Velazquez