10/18/2011 4:57PM

Belmont: Inherit the Gold, Haynesfield return to clash in Empire Classic

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Inherit the Gold hopes to inherit the title of champion older New York-bred that Haynesfield currently holds. Both horses are making their return to the races from five-month layoffs in Saturday’s $200,000 Empire Classic at Belmont Park.

Haynesfield is winless in two starts this year and has not run since finishing fifth in the Metropolitan Handicap on May 30.

Inherit the Gold has won 4 of 6 starts this year, including the Grade 3 Excelsior Stake, and hasn’t run since finishing third to Drosselmeyer in an overnight stakes at Belmont Park on May 15.

Inherit the Gold had a chip taken out of an ankle and is attempting to make it back to the races primarily on gallops. He has only two published breezes, but several strong gallops, including one Tuesday morning at Saratoga in which he went the last five eights of in 1:04.79 under exercise rider Marco Costa.

Trainer Jim Hooper said that Inherit the Gold gets more out a lengthy gallop than a workout.

“He doesn’t want to go for 50 or 60 seconds, he likes to go for a minute and a half or two minutes,’’ Hooper said. `”Marco has been riding this horse for the better part of a year now. I have a lot of confidence in Marco’s ability to judge whether the horse is ready to get the distance or if the horse is at his best. Against these horses, I wouldn’t run him if I didn’t think he was at his best.’’

John Velazquez will ride Inherit the Gold, replacing Eddie Castro, who was injured on Saturday.

At Belmont on Tuesday, Haynesfield worked four furlongs in 49.62 seconds over the main track.