03/03/2012 6:07PM

Aqueduct: Calibrachoa repeats in Tom Fool

Tom Keyser
Calibrachoa (right), with Cornelio Velasquez up, holds off Caleb’s Posse to win the Tom Fool.

The Tom Fool Handicap was run at seven furlongs for 35 years before being shortened to six furlongs in 2011. The distance change has been a fortuitous development for Calibrachoa, who on Saturday became the race's first back-to-back winner since Groovy in 1986-87. For Caleb's Posse, not so much.

Calibrachoa ($9.40), who was claimed for $40,000 by Repole Stable and Todd Pletcher at Aqueduct's 2010 fall meet, upped his record at the Big A to 7 wins from 8 starts, including a perfect 5-for-5 mark on the inner dirt. He won the Tom Fool's initial six-furlong running in 1:09.67 on a fast inner track last year, and bettered that a year later with a 1:09.07 clocking on a drying-out surface upgraded from muddy to good midway through the afternoon.

Calibrachoa tracked Royal Currier and 6-5 favorite Emcee through fractions of 22.44 and 44.92 seconds, caught the leaders from the outside coming to the sixteenth pole, and held off a furious late run from Caleb's Posse, who was making his first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

"That was very exciting," said Pletcher. "I was getting very nervous when Caleb's Posse was making his move, because we've seen that before. So, we were happy to see the wire when we did. He's been a great horse for us. He's awfully consistent, loves the inner track, and is a real cool horse to be around. "If he's doing well, we'll look at the Carter." on April 7

Calibrachoa, the third choice in a field of six, ended a run of eight straight winning favorites to start the card. He prevailed by a neck under Cornelio Velasquez, who had gone down in a spill last Sunday and missed two days due to body soreness Wednesday and Thursday.

 "I had a good position," said Velasquez. Caleb's Posse, he said, "is a Grade 1 horse and he was closing fast, but my horse tries hard every time."

Caleb's Posse, the only 3-year-old male to win two Grade 1 races in the United States last year, took his customary position at the rear through the opening stages, tipped out for the stretch run, and finished fastest of all to get second by three-quarters of a length over Emcee. The order of finish was completed by Capt. Candyman Can, Royal Currier, and Justin Phillip.

 "Good effort," said trainer Donnie Von Hemel of Caleb's Posse. "Probably not unexpected the way the race unfolded. We were coming at the end and just ran out of ground. Von Hemel added Caleb's Posse would "probably" come back for the Carter, saying that was "still the plan."