Well Fancied Heads Belmont Curtain Raiser

(from Belmont report)
Well Fancied, who kicked off the 2002 Belmont fall meet with a victory in the General Douglas MacArthur Handicap for New York breds at seven furlongs, is back for Friday's renewal.

Trainer Richard Dutrow hopes that history repeats for Well Fancied, the 123-pound high weight among seven entered for the $100,000-added MacArthur. The 5-year-old gelding by Prosper Fager with a career record of 8-4-4 from 24 starts and earnings of $412,846, looms a short-priced favorite with Edgar Prado in the irons.

Well Fancied has won three stakes – the 2002 MacArthur, 2002 Hudson Handicap and 2003 Evan Shipman. He has finished off the board just once in five starts this year when unable to match strides with top sprinter Shake You Down in Belmont's Bold Ruler (gr. III). Well Fancied enters the MacArthur looking for his third straight victory.

"He's really turned into a nice horse; he's doing really well," Dutrow said. "We targeted the MacArthur back in July and the only way I was going to run him at Saratoga was if the West Point came off the turf. This break won't hurt him. He started five times in a short amount of time. He's ready."

Despite racing beyond seven furlongs for the first time in the July 20 Evan Shipman Handicap, Well Fancied faced little opposition en route to a 4 ½-length score under Prado. He completed the 1 1/16-mile Shipman in 1:40 4/5 while earning a monstrous speed figure for the effort. He can beat the best New York-breds going short and long.

Trainer Greg Martin knows it won't be easy downing Well Fancied, but entered his 6-year-old Gratiaen anyway. A son of Cure the Blues, Gratiaen has gotten back on track this spring and summer after going winless the last couple of years. Back in February, Martin claimed the horse on behalf of Team West Side Stables for $20,000 and has since won two races with him.

"I remember the horse as a two- and three-year-old," Martin said. "I figured I couldn't get hurt for $20,000. He had been in the same barn since a 2-year-old. Sometimes, these horses will improve with a change of scenery."

Gratiaen has won two out of his last four starts, both for a claiming tag, but needs a dry track for his best. A speed horse, he may have the unenviable task of taking the MacArthur field through the opening furlongs with the heavily-favored Well Fancied breathing down his neck.

$100,000-added General Douglas MacArthur, 3 & up, New York breds, 7 furlongs
1. Mr. Determined, Richard DeMola, Julio Pezua, 111
2. Vodka, John Hertler, Cornelio Velasquez, 117
3. Well Fancied, Richard Dutrow Jr., Edgar Prado, 123
4. Spite the Devil, Allen Jerkens, Jorge Chavez, 116
5. Beyond Chance, Joe Orseno, John Velazquez, 111
6. As Wicked, Michael Lecesse, Pedro Rodriguez, 114
7. Gratiaen, Greg Martin, Eibar Coa, 112
8. Sherpa Guide, Tom Bush, Jose Santos, 117