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Daaher aiming to rebound in Stymie
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - There are other races that are more prestigious and worth more money, but Saturday's $75,000 Stymie Handicap at Aqueduct may be the cure for whatever ails the Grade 1 winner Daaher.
Daaher ended last year as one of the more exciting horses in training after winning three consecutive races, including the Cigar Mile, in which he beat Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Midnight Lute. But in his 4-year-old debut in the Donn Handicap Feb. 2 at Gulfstream Park, Daaher faded to seventh, beaten 19 1/4 lengths as the 4-5 favorite.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin could not find anything physically amiss with Daaher afterward and is making, he said, "an educated guess'' that the combination of the heat and the track surface adversely affected Daaher.
That's why he elected not to run Daaher back in Saturday's weak renewal of the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
McLaughlin still would like to run Daaher in Dubai on March 29 - in either the Dubai World Cup or Godolphin Mile - which is why he elected to skip the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds and the $150,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn, both on March 8.
McLaughlin noted that Jazil in 2006 didn't run well at Gulfstream, but he shipped to New York and ran second in the Wood Memorial before running fourth in the Kentucky Derby and winning the Belmont Stakes.
"We had some funny thing happen [at Gulfstream], so let's take the track and the weather out of the equation,'' McLaughlin said Wednesday from Florida. "Even though the race Saturday is not graded, it's just for us to see if we can go to Dubai. That's why we're doing it.''
McLaughlin said Daaher has "worked great twice'' since the Donn, and he is hoping to see an improved effort on Saturday.
Daaher's presence in the Stymie could affect the size of the field. Trainer Bruce Levine was planning on running both Explosive Heat and Temporary Saint, but may not run either because he doesn't like the weight assignments. Daaher was assigned co-high weight of 122 pounds, while Explosive Heat and Temporary Saint were assigned 114 and 113, respectively.
Evening Attire, who won last year's Stymie, is a confirmed starter. Trainer Gary Contessa is expected to run either Successful Affair or Malibu Moonshine. Kenta Kun is possible.
Bustin Stones targeting Grade 1 Carter
Bustin Stones, the undefeated winner of the Grade 2 General George Handicap at Laurel on Feb. 18, will be pointed to the Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap here on April 5, trainer Bruce Levine said Wednesday.
The General George was the fifth victory in as many starts for Bustin Stones, a 4-year-old son of City Zip, and his first in open company. What impressed Levine most about Bustin Stones's front-running victory was that he did it on a track that was not kind to speed horses. Levine said that midway through the card he was hoping for the forecasted rain to arrive.
"The track was so much against speed that if it rained it couldn't get any worse,'' Levine said. "It rained and it got worse then what it was. Speed was just so bad. That's kind of what impressed me the most, that he won against the track condition and he didn't get much of a breather.''
Watching the race unfold, Levine thought that Lord Snowdon was going to catch Bustin Stones in the stretch, but Bustin Stones "reached back for something more,'' Levine said. "I don't think if they went another eighth he was going to catch him.''
Levine said Bustin Stones came out of the General George in good shape. "He hasn't missed a day of training since,'' he said.
Giant Moon gets ready for Gotham
Giant Moon, another undefeated New York-bred, completed his major preparation for the Grade 3, $250,000 Gotham Stakes, to be run March 8, by working six furlongs in 1:13.94 Wednesday morning over the Belmont Park training track. He worked in company with the maiden Mighty Morris, who actually finished a head in front of Giant Moon.
Giant Moon, under exercise rider Cesar Correa, went in fractions of 12.42 seconds, 24.21, 35.35, and 59.64.
Though Mighty Morris galloped out considerably better than Giant Moon, trainer Richard Schosberg was extremely pleased with Giant Moon's work.
"I know what he's capable of; I know what he does in the morning,'' Schosberg said. "That's a good sharp work. There's no reason for him to do any better than that. There's no reason for him to keep going around the turn. Look at his coat, he looks like he's been in south Florida all winter. Knock wood, everything's gone good.''
Schosberg said Giant Moon's training schedule has not been interrupted despite a spate of inclement weather. He got in a four-furlong work last Thursday, a day before a six-inch snowstorm, and Wednesday's work was done over a fast track despite some rain overnight.
Schosberg said Giant Moon would likely breeze four furlongs next Tuesday.
As of Wednesday, horses considered definite for the Gotham were Eaton's Gift, Giant Moon, Holidaze, Roman Emperor, Saratoga Russell, and Texas Wildcatter. Those listed as possible include Ling Ling Qi, Sleuse, and Visionaire.
Light Tactic out of Broadway
Not all the news from the Schosberg barn was pleasant on Wednesday. Light Tactic, a stakes-winning New York-bred filly, will be forced to miss Sunday's $75,000 Broadway Handicap due to a hind-end issue, Schosberg said.
"We're out," Schosberg said. "She came up with a hind-end problem this morning. She worked real good [Monday], then this morning she was off in behind. I haven't got a clue what it is. Unfortunately, that race isn't coming up as tough as I would have thought, but we're out of it.''
Light Tactic, a 4-year-old daughter of Tactical Cat, has won 3 of 5 starts, including the Personal Bid Stakes over the inner track on Dec. 2.
As of Wednesday, there were only four confirmed starters for the Broadway, restricted to New York-bred fillies and mares. Those expected to run are Karakorum Starlet, Scatkey, Laurentide Ice, and Tamberino.
Miserable day for top rider
Though Ramon Dominguez is well on his way to capturing the inner-track riding title, he certainly had a day to forget on Wednesday. He was aboard three consecutive losing odds-on favorites to begin Wednesday's card.
Dominguez finished third in the opener on 1-9 Shelby's Memory, second aboard 2-5 Mariano in the second, and third aboard 3-5 Wild Debutante in the third. He also lost on favorites On Request (sixth at 5-2 in the fourth) and Legends Way (second at 3-2 in the seventh).
Dominguez did salvage the day somewhat by winning the finale aboard favored City in the Clouds ($9.50). It was Dominguez's 87th win of the meet, 27 more than Alan Garcia, who is in second place in the rider standings.