Nine months have passed since Stronach Stable's Ghostzapper stormed home from last to win the Vosburgh (gr. I) by 6 ½ lengths.Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, concerned that the Santa Anita surface might not suit his 3-year-old, elected to end Ghostzapper's 2003 campaign with the Vosburgh. Feet problems have delayed the return for the son of Awesome Again until Independence Day Sunday, when he faces four opponents in the $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II) at seven furlongs at Belmont Park."He had a quarter crack that turned into an abscess," Frankel said. "He's been ready for a few weeks now. I would have loved to run him in the Met Mile, but he wasn't ready."The late-running Ghostzapper won three out of four races last year with his only loss coming in Saratoga's King's Bishop (gr. I). In that race he appeared hopelessly beaten throughout and was seven lengths behind the leaders at the sixteenth pole, but missed by just one-half length.Ghostzapper had been working out regularly from early January through mid April at Hollywood Park. He did not work for about five weeks until an easy three-furlong move on May 21 of :37. The colt's June works have been strong, signaling he is ready to run. On June 10, he smoked six furlongs in 1:11 3/5 and the next week went the same distance in 1:12 1/5. The pace scenario for the Tom Fool appears uncertain at best. Raymond Dweck's Unforgettable Max raced on the lead in his last two starts, but those races were around two turns. He finished second going a nine furlongs at Pimlico after a long speed duel and was unlucky at Monmouth when he won the Frisk Me Now at one mile but was disqualified in a controversial steward's decision.In his last two sprint races at seven furlongs, Unforgettable Max attempted to rally from far off the pace but trainer Bruce Levine does not envision the same scenario Sunday."I think he'll be close because he's coming off a two-turn mile in which they went :45 1/5 for the half and 1:09 1/5 for three-quarters," Levine said. "From what I see, there's not a whole lot of speed in the race."While six of Unforgettable Max's last eight races have been routes, the colt won his first two races sprinting.
"This is only going to be his third race at seven furlongs, but I think he's more of a sprinter than he is a router," Levine added.Michael Tabor's Lion Tamer could be part of the pace as well. The colt won the Richter Scale Breeders' Cup and Commonwealth Breeders' Cup – both at seven furlongs – earlier this year. He had a nightmarish trip to New York from Kentucky a few days before he ran fifth as the favorite in the Westchester Handicap here on Opening Day."We flew him in a few days before the race and it was kind of a screwed up deal," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "They were supposed to land in Farmingdale (N.Y.), but there was a bunch of fog and they had to reroute to Newark (N.J.). They were trying to wait to take off and they ended up vanning over here. What was supposed to be a four-hour trip turned into a 14-hour trip. We thought he was training well the couple of days he was here, but in retrospect that might not have been the best setup for him."Owner John Gunther and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will be happy to get away from Pico Central Sunday. Their charge, Eye of the Tiger, will find himself in a slightly easier spot than he did the last two times in the Carter and Met Mile (both gr. I).Eye of the Tiger figures to come from off the pace while Sanford Goldfarb's Aggadan should be closer. The latter scored an allowance win going seven furlongs at Belmont June 18.$150,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II), 3 &up, 7 furlongs
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Lion Tamer, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 118
2. Eye of the Tiger, Kiaran McLaughlin, Richard Migliore, 114
3. Aggadan, Richard Dutrow Jr., Edgar Prado, 113
4. Ghostzapper, Bobby Frankel, Javier Castellano, 119
5. Unforgettable Max, Bruce Levine, Jerry Bailey, 114