01/25/2013 2:02PM

Aqueduct: Escapefromreality will try two turns in Withers


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer Dominick Schettino already has one horse on the Triple Crown trail in Always in a Tiz, who finished a credible third in Monday’s Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Schettino hopes to get a second horse on the road to the Kentucky Derby when he sends out Escapefromreality in next Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. The Withers, a two-turn race run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track, offers 17 qualifying points (10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers) for the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

The Withers will be the first start around two turns for Escapefromreality, a New York-bred gelding by Read the Footnotes who won his debut going 5 1/2 furlongs in November and finished second in a six-furlong allowance race after being used up in a speed duel in December.

Schettino is confident that Escapefromreality will get two turns, in part based on the bottom side of his pedigree. Escapefromreality’s second dam, Biogio’s Beauty, was a multiple winner at 1 1/8 miles.

“And also the way he trains,” Schettino said. “Whatever you ask him to do, he’ll do. He’s a real nice horse. He has the physical ability and the mental ability.”

On a frigid Friday morning at Belmont, Schettino asked Escapefromreality to work five furlongs in company with another New York-bred 3-year-old maiden winner Ghostly Vision. With jockey Jose Ortiz up, Escapefromreality went in 1:01.98, with his final three furlongs in 36.03 seconds as he finished about two lengths clear of Ghostly Vision at the wire over a track that appeared to be a little on the loose and slow side. Ghostly Vision was credited with a final time of 1:02.38.

“Last work before the race, we wanted it to be a sharp one,” Schettino said.

Schettino and Anthony Bonomo Jr., manager for his parents’ racing stables, said that Jose Ortiz will ride Escapefromreality in the Withers, despite the fact that he doesn’t get the five-pound weight allowance in a stakes. Ortiz was aboard the day Escapefromreality won, but was taken off in favor of Ramon Dominguez for his second start.

“He’s number one right now. You don’t do that by chance. The kid’s got a lot of talent,” said Bonomo, whose father, Anthony, runs under the name Brooklyn Boyz Stables and whose mother, Mary Ellen, runs under MeB Stable.

As of Friday, a field of seven was expected for the Withers, led by the impressive maiden winner Revolutionary. Siete do Oros, Amerigo Vespucci, and Long River – the second- through fourth-place finishers from the Jerome – as well as Damon Runyon Stakes winner Smooth Bert and recent Laurel maiden winner Valid also are expected.

Ortiz gets three-day suspension

Speaking of Jose Ortiz, Aqueduct’s leading rider will begin serving a three-day suspension Wednesday for a careless riding infraction from earlier in the meet.

In the fourth race Jan. 20, Ortiz rode Mr. Beauregard, who came out of the gate and bumped with Regular Business several times.

Though the stewards suspended Ortiz, they did not, at the time, see sufficient cause to disqualify Mr. Beauregard from fifth and place him sixth, behind Regular Business.

The suspension was reduced from seven days for Ortiz waiving his right of appeal.

Ortiz entered the weekend as the leading rider at Aqueduct’s inner track meet with 41 wins, three more than his brother Irad Ortiz Jr.

Cohen returns to New York

David Cohen, who did not find greener pastures in Kentucky or Florida, will move his tack back to New York beginning Sunday.

Cohen, the second-leading rider at two of the last three inner track meets, is named on five horses on Sunday’s card.

Despite leaving New York in September, Cohen ended up the seventh leading rider on the New York Racing Association circuit in 2012 with 102 wins. His biggest win came at Saratoga in the $1 million Travers when he piloted Golden Ticket to a dead-heat victory with Alpha.

Cohen left to New York to ride in Kentucky in the fall, winning 11 races between the Keeneland and Churchill meets.

Since December, he has been riding at Gulfstream, where he went just 3 for 59 entering Friday’s action. On Saturday at Gulfstream, Cohen was to ride Frac Daddy in the Grade 3, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes as well as Golden Ticket in an allowance race for trainer Ken McPeek. He will return to Florida when needed.

“We’re back and looking to diversify and ride for everybody,” said Bill Castle, Cohen’s agent.

Friend Or Foe retired

Friend Or Foe, the multiple stakes-winning New York-bred, has been retired from racing, according to trainer John Kimmel.

Kimmel said Friend Or Foe had a reoccurrence of filling in the medial suspensory branch of a foreleg and he likely would have missed most of or all of his 6-year-old season.

Friend Or Foe, a son of Friends Lake out of the Unbridled mare Unbridled Star won 5 of 10 starts for owners and breeders Chester and Mary Broman.

In 2010, as a 3-year-old, he won the $250,000 Empire Classic with a Beyer Speed Figure of 109. Earlier in the year, he won the Mike Lee, also for New York-breds. At 4, he won the Easy Goer Stakes by a head over the Grade 1 winner Rail Trip.

Off for more than a year following a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Whitney in 2011, Friend Or Foe finished second to Saginaw in an overnight stakes last November at Aqueduct.

“We’ve had a hard time trying to stand him as a stallion,” Kimmel said. “He’s got all the attributes of a top quality horse – physically, mentally, he ran fast races. It seems like unless you’re a Grade 1 winner, you have no chance to find a home. I thought the New York breeders would be more receptive to him, but it doesn’t seem like Mr. Broman has been able to find him a home.”