06/30/2010 11:00PM

Haynesfield stepping up in Suburban


ELMONT, N.Y. - The last time Haynesfield attempted to prove himself with the better horses of his generation, he failed miserably, finishing eighth, 26 1/4 lengths behind I Want Revenge in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

That was March 2009. Sixteen months later, Haynesfield will try to prove he belongs with some of the better horses in the handicap division when he takes on I Want Revenge and Regal Ransom in Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park.

Last year, Haynesfield had reeled off four straight victories entering the Gotham, a race in which he was trying to join the Triple Crown trail. After showing speed in most of his early races, Haynesfield was never involved in the Gotham, finishing ahead of just one horse.

"He was a baby then, immature," said Toby Sheets, the New York-based assistant to Steve Asmussen, the trainer of Haynesfield. "He's a lot more mature, much bigger. We just have to step up our game."

Haynesfield, who was voted 2009 New York-bred Horse of the Year, has benefited from the patience of owner Harvey Weinstein, who has given Sheets and Asmussen license to run the horse when he's ready rather than push him to be ready. Last fall, Haynesfield came off a seven-month layoff to finish second, beaten a head in the Sir Keys Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs. He did come back 22 days later to win the $250,000 Empire Classic against New York-breds before winning the Grade 3 Discovery for 3-year-olds one month later.

A foot injury derailed Haynesfield through the winter and early spring, but he came back with a solid 2 1/2-length victory in a New York-bred allowance, running one mile in 1:34.69 while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 99. He is coming back on just three weeks' rest. By contrast, I Want Revenge is making his first start in 15 months while Regal Ransom is making his first start in eight months.

"It's not the ideal situation," Sheets said. "Ideal would be having four to five weeks."

While Haynesfield is likely to be up close early, the fact he has drawn the outside post should give jockey Ramon Dominguez a chance to see how the race plays out to his inside. There is a horse in the race, Pictural, who was entered to act as a rabbit for stablemate I Want Revenge.

"I believe the post probably helps our chances," Sheets said.

Gio Ponti works for Man o' War

Dual Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti tuned up for next Saturday's Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes by working five furlongs in 1:01.89 on Thursday morning over the inner turf course.

Gio Ponti worked in company with the maiden winner Wild Entry, starting the breeze about 1 1/2 lengths behind that horse, moving toward him turning into the stretch, and finishing on even terms. Wild Entry was timed in 1:02.19.

"He's fit, I know he can run, the only instructions I gave the rider was get him around there and have fun," trainer Christophe Clement said. "I got him in 23 flat for his last quarter, and he galloped out strong."

Turf works are usually conducted on Sunday, but Clement asked the racing office and received permission to breeze Thursday because he wanted to work the horse further out from the race than six days.

"I wanted to give him a few more days, he's an older horse," Clement said. "Everything's a go. I'm very excited for the horse, I'm very excited for the race."

Since winning four consecutive Grade 1 races that culminated with the Arlington Million, Gio Ponti has lost five straight, though he did finish second in the Breeders' Cup Classic and second in last month's Manhattan, losing by a half-length to stablemate Winchester.

Others expected to run in the Man o' War include Bear Path, Expansion, Grand Couturier, Interpatation, Mission Approved, and Midnite Silver.

Franny Freud meets four in Prioress

Franny Freud, a six-time stakes winner, meets four 3-year-old fillies in Sunday's Grade 1, $250,000 Prioress Stakes at six furlongs.

Franny Freud has finished worse than second only once in 10 starts. That came in the Grade 1 Frizette, a one-mile race last year here as a 2-year-old. Since then, Franny Freud has won four of five starts -- including the Grade 2 Beaumont against open company -- as well as three restricted stakes. Her last three wins have come by a combined margin of 18 1/2 lengths.

"She hasn't had to be pressed hard yet or anything," trainer John Terranova said. "The last few races, she's really won them very easily."

Franny Freud meets the speedy Champagne d'Oro, who cuts back to six furlongs after winning the Grade 1 Acorn at a mile. Though Martin Garcia rode Champagne d'Oro that day, he is committed to ride the Bob Baffert-trained Bonnie Blue Flag, winner of three consecutive races, in the Prioress. Miguel Mena rides Champagne d'Oro.

Funny Feeling, who won the Just Smashing Stakes at Monmouth on May 31, and Stormandaprayer, a recent maiden winner, complete the field.

Dominguez closing on another title

On June 13, after 33 cards were run at Belmont Park, Ramon Dominguez held a precarious one-win lead in the jockey standings over Javier Castellano.

Seventeen calendar days and 11 cards of racing later, Dominguez seemed well on his way to a ninth consecutive New York Racing Association riding title.

Dominguez won four races on Wednesday's card to build a 52-40 lead over Castellano entering Thursday's action, the first of the last 15 days of racing at the Belmont meet.

From June 16 to June 30, Dominguez went 19 for 61 at Belmont, with six multiple-win days. Wednesday was his best performance of the spring/summer meet as he won the opener with Who Is Lady ($6.80), the third with That's Rich ($12.60), the sixth with Wicked Diva ($4.40), and the seventh with Smart Woman ($7.70). He barely missed a fifth win when his late run aboard I've Got Speed fell a nostril short of Istishaary.

Dominguez has won the last eight meet titles at NYRA tracks, including setting a record for wins at a Belmont spring/summer meet last year with 98.

Gomez to ride Saratoga

Garrett Gomez, the Eclipse Award winning rider of 2007 and 2008, will ride at Saratoga full-time this summer, according to his agent, Ron Anderson.

Gomez has twice ridden the entire meet at Saratoga, finishing second to Edgar Prado in 2006 with 42 wins and third to Cornelio Velasquez in 2007 with 29 wins. Gomez has spent the last two summers at Del Mar.

For the last few years, Gomez has gone back and forth between the East and West Coast over the year, but he came East this spring to ride at Monmouth Park where, through last week, he had 13 wins from 75 mounts.