02/01/2013 4:52PM

Aqueduct notes: Clawback likely to wait for Gotham

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Clawback wins the Winkfield on Jan. 21. He will likely make his two-turn debut in the Gotham on March 2.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Clawback, sharp winner of the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes here on Jan. 21, will most likely make his first attempt around two turns in the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes on March  2, trainer Rick Violette said Friday.

The Gotham is a two-turn race run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track. It awards 85 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby with 50 going to the winner.

“We’ll be nominated all over the place, including Oaklawn and Fair Grounds, but the most logical one right now is the Gotham to see if he wants to stretch out,” Violette said.

Clawback, a son of Put It Back, has run four times, all sprints. He is 2 for 2 over the inner track. After winning a maiden race in front-running fashion, Clawback came from just off the pace in the Winkfield, running six furlongs in 1:09.75 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

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

Initially, Violette said he was leery of waiting 40 days to run Clawback again, but upon further review he believes the timing may work out just fine.

“It might pay dividends in the end,” Violette said. “He ran hard last time; a new top [speed figure] and all of that. Maybe the extra time will benefit us.”

Violette hopes Clawback runs as well in his first time going long as Go Get the Basil did in his first time around two turns on Thursday.

A New York-bred son of Andromeda’s Hero, Go Get the Basil won a starter allowance race Thursday against open company by 1 3/4 lengths, his third consecutive victory.

“I actually thought he’d stretch out, I was dying to do it,” Violette said. “His two races in Saratoga were absolute throw-outs.”

Go Get the Basil was beaten a combined 36 1/2 lengths in his first two starts at Saratoga. Violette said Go Get the Basil had “crud in his lungs” after his first start on Aug. 6 and came out of his second start with a high temperature on Aug. 27.

Violette said he would likely run Go Get the Basil in a first-level open company allowance before trying stakes company.

“He’s a neat little horse. Certainly a New York-bred stakes is within his reach and maybe better than that,” Violette said.

Horsemen okay with new schedule

For the most part, New York horsemen were on board with the decision by the New York Racing Association to cut six days off of Aqueduct’s winter schedule.

On Thursday, Aqueduct received approval to cancel Feb. 6, 13, 14, and 27, as well as March 6 and 13.

“I got some mild pushback from very few people,” said Violette, who is the president of the New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association. “It was the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do. As I explained to the new members of the NYRA board, getting horsemen to agree to fewer days is like getting the Republicans to agree to getting rid of the Second Amendment, getting rid of guns.”

NYRA sought a reduction in dates in part due to a renewed commitment to equine safety as well as a horse shortage that has seen average field size slip from 7.9 horses per race to 6.9.

“I think they needed to do it,” said Bruce Levine, who has won a meet-leading 18 races at Aqueduct through Friday. “It’ll help field size and it looked like handle is falling off.”

At the Jan. 25 NYRA Reorganization Board meeting, NYRA president Ellen McClain said handle through the first part of January was up slightly. NYRA did have to cancel the cards of Jan. 24-25 due to extreme cold.

* Last Gunfighter, winner of four straight races including the Evening Attire Stakes last out, worked four furlongs in 50.45 seconds Friday morning.

His connections have yet to decide whether he will run in the Stymie here on Feb. 16 or wait until the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes, presumably over the main track on March 23.