09/23/2011 3:15PM

Belmont: Donk has faith in Hessonite


ELMONT, N.Y. – In Sunday’s $100,000 John Hettinger Stakes at Belmont Park, the 3-year-old filly Hessonite will be taking on older fillies and mares going a distance she has yet to try on a turf course that figures to have been softened significantly by Mother Nature.

None of these apparent obstacles seems to bother trainer David Donk, who will send Hessonite out against the multiple stakes winner Gitchee Goomie and six others in the Hettinger, scheduled for 1 1/8 miles over the inner turf course.

Hessonite, a daughter of Freud, is coming off a head victory in a New York Stallion Stakes at Saratoga against the boys. It was her third consecutive victory against restricted company. She did finish third to the subsequent Grade 1 winner Summer Soiree in the Grade 3 Boiling Springs at Monmouth two starts back.

The Hettinger will be Hessonite’s first start at 1 1/8 miles, but Donk doesn’t believe there are any distance limitations for the filly.

“I personally think the further the better,” Donk said. “I was more concerned when I had to back her up to seven eighths.”

Donk believes Hessonite is “comparable” with the older fillies and mares in the New York-bred turf division. The prospect of running Hessonite on soft turf is a non-issue for Donk considering the condition of the Aqueduct turf on April 23 when Hessonite came back off a five-month layoff to win a first-level allowance race by 2 1/2 lengths.

“It was the only race they ran that day, and they hadn’t run on it in a few days,” Donk recalled. “I was surprised they would even attempt to run on – it was really soft. But she did okay.”

Heavy rain here Friday prompted track officials to move three of the four scheduled turf races to the dirt while moving all of Saturday’s turf races to the dirt.

Hessonite will break from post 4 under Ramon Dominguez, who is 3 for 3 aboard the filly.

The horse to beat is Gitchee Goomie, who has 3 wins and 3 seconds from 6 starts this year. Two of her second-place finishes have come in open company stakes to Daveron, who is undefeated in three starts this year.

Gitchee Goomie, trained by Rick Violette, has proven herself at 1 1/8 miles and over soft grounding winning the Topicount overnight stakes here last fall. Alan Garcia rides from post 5.

Rogue’s Jewel has a win and two seconds from three turf starts. She has finished second nine times from 18 starts.

Frivolous Buck, Freedom Rings, Mineralogist, Exclusive Scheme, and Akilina complete the field on turf. Spa City Princess and Go Unbridled were entered in the event the race is moved to the dirt.