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Aqueduct: Schettino making the most of 2-year-old talent in his barn
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – On the Belmont Park backstretch, Dominick Schettino’s barn is directly across from Todd Pletcher’s.
On the racing landscape, that’s about as close as many would put the two trainers.
But while Pletcher was inarguably the most successful trainer with 2-year-olds this year on the New York Racing Association circuit, Schettino is doing quite well for himself in that division.
Working with a little more than a dozen juvenile prospects – the majority of which are New York-breds – Schettino has won 11 races restricted to 2-year-olds from 41 starters on the NYRA circuit this year.
Two of those juvenile males, Always in a Tiz, and Meeker Avenue, will be competing in stakes Sunday at Aqueduct, the final day of racing over the main track.
Meeker Avenue, winner of a division of the New York Stallion Series on Nov. 11, runs in the $80,000 Damon Runyon for New York-breds. Always in a Tiz, a Kentucky-bred son of Tiznow, will make his second career start in the $75,000 Traskwood Stakes at seven furlongs.
Based primarily on the success of his 2-year-olds this year, Schettino will take stalls at Gulfstream for the first time this winter. On Tuesday, he is sending eight head to Gulfstream, including five 2-year-olds.
Always in a Tiz, a son of Tiznow, won a 5 1/2-furlong race at Saratoga on the closing day card, beating, among others, the highly regarded Revolutionary, trained by Pletcher. Sunday, he stretches out to seven furlongs in the Traskwood against only four rivals.
“We just gave him some time to get over that race, time to develop,” Schettino, 46, said Friday. “He’s a big colt. He’s growing. We figured he ran a hard race, so give him a little time to get over it. He’s really bred to go further.”
Always in a Tiz is an example of the type of better horses Schettino is getting to train, thanks to Anthony and Mary Ellen Bonomo. Anthony Bonomo, a member of the NYRA Reorganization Board who races under the name Brooklyn Boyz Stable, and his wife Mary Ellen, who races under the moniker MeB Racing Stables, have been buying and breeding better horses. Their son, Anthony Bonomo Jr., serves as his parents’ general manager.
“They’ve really upgraded their stock, buying yearlings every year. They have a nice bunch of homebreds too,” Schettino said. “They’ve really stepped up their program. They put a lot work into it and hard work usually pays off.”
This year, Schettino made it to his first Belmont Stakes and Travers with Five Sixteen. In a cruel twist of fate, Five Sixteen, a $225,000 purchase who ran fifth in the Belmont, died of a cardiovascular collapse at the conclusion of a Nov. 4 workout.
Schettino said getting a taste of races like the Belmont and Travers makes him want to participate in those races on a regular basis.
“Once you get to those kinds of races you’d like to maintain it. It’s not easy but you’d like to be in them every year if you can,” said Schettino, who did run the New York-bred Galloping Grocer in the 2005 Preakness. “With a bunch of the young horses we got, I hope we can.”
Last Gunfighter seeks third straight
Three of the four stakes on Sunday’s card are for 2-year-olds. The only one that is not is the Raymond Earl, a one mile race restricted to 3-year-old males.
Last Gunfighter is coming back on relatively short rest – 18 days – but is seeking his third consecutive victory since moving to the Chad Brown barn.
Last Gunfighter, won a maiden race by 2 1/2 lengths going a one-turn mile at Belmont on Oct. 12, then defeated Big Business by a nose in a first-level allowance race here on Nov. 21. Big Business came out of that race to win an allowance by six lengths here on Dec. 1, his fifth win from his last six starts.
Saturday’s Charm has won two straight seven-furlong races for the Steve Asmussen stable.
Pretension, who is cross-entered in a stakes at Laurel on Saturday, Speightscity, and Guyana Star Dweej complete the field.
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