09/07/2012 2:34PM

Belmont: Hessonite could hold distance edge over rival in Hettinger

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Tom Keyser
Hessonite beat Gitchee Goomie for the first time in four tries this year in the Yaddo Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer David Donk is hopeful he has found the one thing that may give his filly Hessonite an edge over Gitchee Goomie in their ongoing rivalry: distance.

Sunday, when the two New York-bred fillies meet for the fifth time this year – and sixth time in 11 months – in the $150,000 John Hettinger Stakes at Belmont Park, it will be the first time at 1 1/8 miles. Though Hessonite has yet to race beyond 1 1/16 miles, Donk has been looking forward to stretching the daughter of Freud out in distance for a long time.

“I’d love to run her a mile and a quarter,” Donk said. “I’ve always felt the farther we’d run her the better.”

Hessonite did defeat Gitchee Goomie 23 days ago in the Yaddo Stakes at 1 1/16 miles at Saratoga. It was Hessonite’s first win against Gitchee Goomie this year and first since she defeated Gitchee Goomie in last year’s Ticonderoga, also at 1 1/16 miles.

Gitchee Goomie defeated Hessonite in the Mt. Vernon at Belmont and Dr. James Penny Memorial at Parx while also finishing ahead of her in the Beaugay here in May.

The Hettinger is a stepping-stone to the Ticonderoga, which will be run on Oct. 20. Last year, both Hessonite and Gitchee Goomie scratched out of the Hettinger when rain washed the race to the main track. Go Unbridled, who won last year’s Hettinger, is back this year making her turf debut in her 22nd career start.

In addition to liking the 1 1/8 miles of the Hettinger, Donk also likes the fact the race is around two turns, compared to the one-mile and 1 1/16-mile races here which are run out of a chute and around one turn.

In the Yaddo, Hessonite may have benefitted from the outside post, which allowed Ramon Dominguez to keep Gitchee Goomie and Alan Garcia, who had the rail, boxed in. Hessonite got the jump on Gitchee Goomie, who failed to fire and finished fourth, only the third time in 20 career starts she was out of the money.

“For the first time in two years, it wasn’t her ‘A’ race,” Rick Violette, the trainer of Gitchee Goomie, said. “When she got clear she didn’t quicken. She’s trained great since.”

Gitchee Goomie is the only member of the field to have won at 1 1/8 miles on turf, having taken an overnight stakes in the fall of her 3-year-old season. Gitchee Goomie breaks from post 7.

Go Unbridled, trained by Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, comes in off a monster 6 1/2-length victory in the Saratoga Dew Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 27. She won this race last year when entered as a main-track-only entrant, but this year will give the turf a try for the first time. Jerkens did breeze her twice over the turf last fall and said Go Unbridled went “as good as you would want. You never really know till you try.”

Inimitable Romanee finished second to Hessonite in the Irish Linnet Stakes and was beaten a neck by repeat winner Shakeira in a second-level allowance race at Saratoga on Aug. 17.

Lady’s Lunar Luck, the potential pacesetter, Freedom Rings, and Dreaming of Cara complete the field. Lady On the Run is entered as main-track only.