05/23/2011 3:34PM

Belmont Park: Met Mile prospects tuning up

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Caixa Eletronica, with Cornelio Velasquez riding, wins the Westchester.

ELMONT, N.Y. – A field of 11 is shaping up for next Monday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, and five of those contenders put in their final major workouts Monday morning over the main track.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won his first Met Mile last year with Quality Road, worked a trio of Met Mile prospects on Monday including Caixa Eletronica, Aikenite, and Ibboyee.

Caixa Eletronica, who won the Grade 3 Westchester here on April 30, worked a sharp five furlongs in 59.27 seconds in company with stablemate Christmas for Liam. Christmas for Liam was tugging quite a bit in the move, while Caixa Eletronica was more settled as the two blitzed through fractions of 11.84, 23.76, and 34.99 seconds for three furlongs. Despite the fast early pace, both managed to come home in a solid 24.28 seconds in their final quarter.

“We ended up getting rained out last week and decided to go with one work and we wanted to make sure we got a good solid work,” said Pletcher, who moved up the work by one day because of a threat of an off track on Tuesday morning.

Pletcher claimed Caixa Eletronica for Mike Repole for $62,500 at Gulfstream on March 29. In January, Caixa Eletronica had defeated the Pletcher-trained Mission Impazible in an optional claimer. The horse then finished third, beaten two lengths by Tackleberry, in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Sprint Championship.

“When he beat Mission Impazible in an optional claiming/allowance race at Gulfstream and he was back in for a tag, I just felt like if the horse was healthy he was worth the price,” Pletcher said. “He was in good shape when we got him, and he trained really well and he showed in the Westchester he seems to relish a one-turn mile. It was a big effort. This is an ambitious placing.”

Pletcher also worked the duo of Aikente and Ibboyee in company, and the pair went in 48.62 seconds, going an opening quarter in 24.03. Aikenite, a son of Yes It’s True owned by Dogwood Stable, is coming off back-to-back Grade 2 stakes scores in the Commonwealth at Keeneland and the Churchill Downs at Churchill. Ibboyee, a New York-bred son of Medallist owned by the Anstu Stable, was third, beaten one-half length in the Churchill Downs.

Others pointing to the Met Mile who worked on Monday included the Grade 1 winner Haynesfield, who went four furlongs in 48.89 seconds, and Rodman, who went five furlongs in 1:00.13.

Morning Line, the Grade 1 Carter winner and probable Met Mile favorite, was scheduled to work Tuesday at Saratoga for trainer Nick Zito. Others expected to run in the Met include Kensei, Soaring Empire, Stormy's Majesty, Tackleberry and Tizway.

Trainer Richard Mandella had been considering Crown of Thorns for the Met, but the horse stepped on himself, known as grabbing a quarter, and missed five days of training, forcing Mandella to skip the race.

“There wasn’t any room for error and we had an error,” Mandella said. “It’s a shame too, because it was a race I was really looking forward too.”

Winter Memories sharp in Sands Point tune-up

Though it might look like a slow work on paper, Winter Memories’ five-furlong move in 1:03.13 over a yielding Widener turf course Monday morning was actually quite impressive.

With the temporary rails out 27 feet and three sets of orange traffic cones, known as dogs, also out on the course, workouts were conducted on the outer third of the course on Monday. Under regular rider Jose Lezcano, Winter Memories went three furlongs in 39.21 seconds then came home the final quarter in the stretch in 23.92 seconds over the yielding ground. It was the quickest of six moves at the distance.

Winter Memories, who has won 3 of 4 starts, is prepping for a start in next Monday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Sands Point Stakes.

“I said let her reach out, let her extend herself,” trainer Jimmy Toner said he instructed Lezcano. “She loved it. She did everything right, she breezed beautifully. I couldn’t ask for more, she came out of it good. Bottom line: She’s doing well.”

Other Sands Point horses working Sunday included Arch Support, who went seven furlongs in 1:32.05, and Mystical Star, who went four furlongs in 51.97 seconds.

Awesome Maria likely for Ogden Phipps

Awesome Maria, who won Saturday’s Grade 2 Shuvee by a head over the stubborn Absinthe Minded, will be pointed to the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap on June 18, Pletcher said.

The win was the third consecutive Grade 2 victory for Awesome Maria, who had won the Sabin and Rampart at Gulfstream by a combined 12 3/4 lengths. On Saturday, Awesome Maria had to chase Absinthe Minded through a half-mile in 47.48 seconds while conceding that filly seven pounds.

“We were giving her a weight advantage and a pace advantage, I thought it was a gutsy effort on Awesome Maria’s part to run her down off a 47-and-change half,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher said Super Espresso and Life At Ten, the first- and third-place finishers, respectively, from Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Allaire Dupont Distaff at Pimlico, would also be under consideration for the Phipps.

Regarding Life At Ten, who was the beaten 2-5 favorite in the DuPont, Pletcher said, “Physically, she seems in good order. I think we’ll just continue on. If she continues to train well, hopefully as an older mare it’s just going to take a race or two to find her best.”

McGaughey barn on a roll

Trainer Shug McGaughey is enjoying a solid meet, winning five races from nine starters, including two versions of the Three Coins Up Stakes run last week.

On Sunday, McGaughey won the $60,000 Three Coins Up on turf with Boisterous, who rallied off a slow pace to won by three-quarters of a length for his second straight victory.

“I thought he ran a good race,” McGaughey said. “For a lightly raced horse first time in a stake, I thought he ran very well. I think he’s improving with every race, and hopefully he keeps improving.”

McGaughey said he would nominate to the Grade 1 Manhattan, but that it might be too close back.

On Thursday, McGaughey won the original Three Coins Up – which was rained off the turf to the main track _ with Hymn Book, who ran down a loose-on-the-lead I Want Revenge to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Hymn Book is now 3 for 6 on turf and 2 for 3 on wet dirt tracks.

“He’s a horse that gives it his all every time,” McGaughey said. “His race at Keeneland off a layoff was really good. I’ll nominate him to the Brooklyn, doubt very seriously that I’ll run him. Maybe I’ll point him to the Suburban [on July 2] and see how it comes up.”

McGaughey said that Streaker, who won a third-level allowance race on May 13, is nominated to the Vagrancy on June 4, but will most likely wait for the Bed O’ Roses on July 3. McGaughey has also won maiden races with Point of Entry, a 3-year-old half-brother to Streaker and Hungry Island.

◗ Gio Ponti worked five furlongs in 1:06.10 over yielding turf Monday. He remains on schedule for the Grade 1 Manhattan on June 11, trainer Christophe Clement said.

◗ Rachel Young, the mother of East Coast bloodstock agent Steve Young and the California clocker Gary Young, died Sunday in California after a lengthy illness. She was 89.