The Count Fleet Stakes, originally scheduled to be run last Saturday but postponed when racing was cancelled at Aqueduct, has drawn a field of nine 3-year-olds. The Count Fleet was won last year by Smarty Jones on his road to success in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I).Among those entered is Michael Tabor's Killenaule, who finished third in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) behind Rockport Harbor and Galloping Grocer.
"The quality of those two (Rockport Harbor and Galloping Grocer) has yet to be seen, but there's no doubt they're serious contenders on the Triple Crown trail," said Seth Benzel, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, the conditioner of Killenaule. "Fortunately for us, they're not showing up this time and their absence translates into a class edge for us."Killenaule has already made five starts around two turns, winning three of those races including listed stakes at Delaware and The Meadowlands. In total, the son of Fusaichi Pegasus has made nine starts."We have a very seasoned horse for this time of year," Benzel said. "He's settling a lot better in the races than he was earlier last year. At least he's versatile enough to be on the lead or stalk from just off."Fox Ridge Farm's New York-bred Naughty New Yorker seems to have really come to hand in his last couple of starts for trainer Pat Kelly. After finishing second to Galloping Grocer as a maiden in the Sleepy Hollow, the Quiet American colt dusted state-bred maidens and then romped to a runaway win in the Damon Runyon. The most interesting part of Naughty New Yorker could be his running style. In both victories he made big moves around the far turn and was able to continue on."He does it so strangely, looping the field like that," Kelly said. "He did that against New York-breds, so we'll see if he can do it against better horses on Saturday."Naughty New Yorker is clearly a better horse now than he was earlier in his career."Blinkers have helped him a lot," said Kelly, who added the equipment for the colt's thirds start. "They have him more focused and he's put everything together."
No trainer on the grounds is hotter than Tom Bush, clicking at about a 40 % clip. He claimed Tani Maru for Donald and Adam Newman for $75,000 out of a Spa maiden claimer and in three starts for his new connections, Tani Maru owns two wins and a third in the listed Huntington."Donald Newman and his sons Adam and Richard are very serious handicappers," Bush said. "They studied his form and really liked his first couple of races at Saratoga. We liked his pedigree and he looked good in the paddock, so we put a claim in for him."Tani Maru's last start, a Dec. 15 allowance test, was the Devil His Due colt's first try around two turns and it resulted in victory, although he had to work hard to best Scrappy T and Father Weist in a photo.
"I was very happy to see that he had no trouble with the distance in his last race," Bush said. "He did break a little awkwardly from the outside and that made him run a little awkwardly around the first turn. Hopefully he'll be more composed leaving the gate this time. He's still learning."
Despite his hot streak and excellent 2004 season, Bush said owners are not knocking down the barn door to get him to train their horses.
"It's strange," Bush said. "Some people win a couple races and their phone rings off the hook. I'm just happy that our stable has been doing as well as it has. When you have good horses, it makes a big difference."
Scrappy T and Father Weist will be back to try to avenge losses to Tani Maru.The field for Saturday's $75,000 Count Fleet
PP. -- Horse, Weight, Jockey
1--Lucky Alarm, 118, Nick Santagata
2--Qualified Opinion, 116, Shaun Bridgmohan
3--Scrappy T, 116, Alan Garcia
4--Killenaule, 122, Richard Migliore
5--Pavo, 116, Aaron Gryder
6--Tani Maru, 118, Rafael Bejarano
7--Father Weist, 116, Norberto Arroyo Jr.
8--Lakeville Rush, 116, Stewart Elliott
9--Naughty New Yorker, 118, Jean-Luc Samyn