11/24/2011 2:11PM

Aqueduct: Haynesfield out for Cigar redemption

Barbara D. Livingston
Haynesfield, on right with Ramon Dominguez riding, wins the Empire Classic.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – One year later, Haynesfield’s narrow loss to Jersey Town in the 2010 Cigar Mile still gnaws at his connections. Saturday, when the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile is run for the 23rd time at Aqueduct, Haynesfield will get the chance to erase that painful memory while salvaging what has been for the most part a lost 5-year-old season.

Haynesfield will take on six opponents in the Cigar Mile, one of four graded stakes on a 10-race program that essentially is the last major day of racing on this circuit for 2011. The card, which gets under way at noon, also includes the Grade 1 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 2, 200,000 Remsen for juvenile colts, and the Grade 2, $200,000 Demoiselle for juvenile fillies.

Had Haynesfield won last year’s Cigar Mile, he would have pulled off the rare trifecta of the Grade 2 Suburban, Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Cigar Mile. Coming off an 11th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Haynesfield ran a dynamite race, pressing a strong early pace before getting outfinished late by 34-1 longshot Jersey Town.

“It stings a little, of course,” said Toby Sheets, Steve Asmussen’s New York-based assistant who has overseen the training of Haynesfield for three years. “But at that point we were just glad to see him come back from the Breeders’ Cup after getting smashed around.”

Haynesfield began theis year with subpar efforts in the Westchester and Metropolitan handicaps. He enters the Cigar Mile off a solid victory in the $250,000 Empire Classic against New York-breds at Belmont Park. What made that race impressive was that he ran 1 1/8 miles off a five-month layoff, and rallied from further off the pace than he had previously done in his career. Yes, he swerved out a little bit in the stretch, perhaps a sign of fatigue from the 145-day layoff, but that was not unexpected.

“He relaxed a lot better than he has in the past,” Sheets said. “I was very, very pleased with it. He did everything correctly. A lot of the hard work that we did paid off. That was probably a pretty good group of New York-breds. He was a little more tired than usual, but he should have been.”

Sheets said he has been pleased with how Haynesfield has done in the month since the Empire Classic, and that cutting back to a one-turn mile shouldn’t be a problem. Haynesfield is certainly versatile, having won at distances from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles.

Haynesfield, who carries co-highweight at 117 pounds, will break from post 2 under Ramon Dominguez.

If he utilizes the same style he did in the Empire Classic, Haynesfield could find himself stalking Calibrachoa and/or To Honor and Serve.

Calibrachoa and his stablemate Caixa Eletronica were both scratched by Todd Pletcher out of Thursday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap at six furlongs.

Calibrachoa comes off a 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler here on Nov. 6, keeping him perfect at Aqueduct – 2 for 2 over the main track, 3 for 3 over the inner track. He equaled a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 107. The problem is after running that figure in the past he has come back with a subpar race in his next start.

“The one thing we have going for us is he seems to really like Aqueduct,” Pletcher said.

Calibrachoa, who breaks from post 3 under Cornelio Velasquez, also figures to be part of the pace, which could set things up for Caixa Eletronica, who was third in the Bold Ruler, but who has won 3 of his last 4 starts in one-turn mile races.

“I think the mile is a better fit for him,” Pletcher said.

To Honor and Serve wheels back in the Cigar Mile three weeks after finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Last year, as a 2-year-old, To Honor and Serve won the Grade 2 Nashua, a one-turn mile, and then three weeks later the Remsen Stakes at 1 1/8 miles over Aqueduct’s main track.

"We know it’s a little quick back from the Breeders’ Cup but he’s won at Aqueduct at that distance and it seems like he bounced back pretty well," said Mott, whose horse will break from post 6 under Jose Lezcano.

Sangaree, has lost his last 11 starts, but did finish second to Calibrachoa in the Bold Ruler last out. Hymn Book, trained by Shug McGaughey, comes off an overnight stakes win at Belmont around one turn and did finish second to Flat Out in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap in July.

Pretty Boy Freud wheels back 13 days after getting beaten a neck by Inherit the Gold in a New York Stallion Stakes race.

The Cigar Mile will go as race 8 and is the second leg of a late pick four with a guaranteed pool of $250,000.

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