03/18/2013 3:53PM

Aqueduct: West Hills Giant pointed for Wood after toothache

Tom Keyser
West Hills Giant might have been bothered by a toothache during his second-place finish in the Gotham Stakes on March 2.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer John Terranova’s initial thought when seeing West Hills Giant start to lug in during the stretch run of the Gotham Stakes was to chalk it up to immaturity.

There might have been more to it.

Terranova said Monday that West Hills Giant may have been bothered by a cracked cap, the term given to a horse’s baby tooth that is being pushed up by the permanent tooth.

“The cap wasn’t ready to come out; it broke and was pretty sharp,” Terranova said. “It’s been out for a couple of weeks now.”

On Monday, without that broken cap but with a new bit, West Hills Giant breezed four furlongs in 48.95 seconds over the Belmont Park training track, preparing for a possible start in the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 6.

West Hills Giant broke about two lengths behind stablemate Slot Play before quickly catching up after an opening eighth in 12.13 seconds. West Hills Giant, with exercise rider Simon Harris up, went his last three furlongs in 36.82 seconds while finishing about a neck in front of Slot Play. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.49. It was his first work since the Gotham, in which he was beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Vyjack.

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

Though West Hills Giant set the pace in the Gotham, Terranova feels the New York-bred son of Frost Giant is better with a target.

“In the Gotham, when he turned for home and opened up a little bit, he showed a little bit of greenness,” Terranova said. “He started leaning in, and he got a little lost out there. He’s better when he’s got a horse near him or something to run at or something right up on him. It keeps him a lot more honest. He shows that in the mornings.”

West Hills Giant raced in the Gotham with blinkers for the first time and worked in them Monday.

While Terranova said his first thought is to stay in New York for the Wood, he also said the Blue Grass on April 13 at Keeneland is under consideration. While West Hills Giant has yet to race on a synthetic surface, he did win a maiden race at Saratoga on turf.

Mr Palmer works toward Wood

Another Wood contender put in a workout Monday, as Mr Palmer went an easy half-mile in 49.39 seconds under exercise rider Steve Schmezel. Equipped with blinkers, Mr Palmer went by himself through a first quarter in 24.96 seconds and a second quarter in 24.43. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.75.

Monday’s work came nine days after Mr Palmer won the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel. The work was moved up by a few days to catch a fast track, according to assistant trainer Leana Willaford, as wet weather was forecast for Monday night into Tuesday.

“Visually, he looked really good finishing through the stretch,” Willaford said. “He came off the track full of himself, bucking and jumping. It’s a good one to start with, anyway.”

Incognito targets Illinois Derby

Incognito, who finished a neck behind Mr Palmer in a Feb. 17 allowance race, came back to win a maiden race here Saturday by 3 1/4 lengths. He ran a mile in 1:37.62 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 86.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he needed to talk with representatives of Darley Stable before etching a plan in stone, but he mentioned the $750,000 Illinois Derby on April 20 as a race he would like to consider “timing-wise.”

After racing well off the pace in his first three starts, Incognito was positioned up close early by Mike Luzzi on Saturday.

“Mike Luzzi had ridden him in his three previous races, and he said he was always after him going into the first turn,” McLaughlin said. “He felt like he didn’t take the kickback well. The other day, he was traveling like a winner right away. I like the way he ran, being on the bridle early and willingly.”

Incognito is a very well-bred horse, being by A.P. Indy out of the mare Octave, who won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks in 2007, when it was 1 1/4 miles.

McLaughlin also won Saturday’s featured Cicada Stakes with Elghayoor, owned by Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stable.

New York does not offer a traditional sprint stakes for 3-year-old fillies until the Grade 3 Victory Ride in late June. McLaughlin mentioned the Grade 1 Acorn, a one-mile race May 27, as a target for Elghayoor but wasn’t sure if he would try to run once beforehand.

Elghayoor is a daughter of Ghostzapper, so stretching out on dirt or turf is a possibility, McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin did confirm that Shadwell’s Maleeh, the winner of the Fred “Cappy” Capossela Stakes, will run in the Bay Shore on April 6.