12/29/2008 12:00AM

Haynesfield tests road to the Derby


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The dominant victory Haynesfield recorded in the Damon Runyon Stakes here Dec. 7 had many excited to see him run again. That chance will come Saturday in the $65,000 Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct, where Haynesfield will step out of New York-bred company for the first time and try to step onto the Kentucky Derby trail.

Haynesfield won the Damon Runyon by 5 1/4 lengths in front-running fashion. He ran a mile and 70 yards in 1:42.95 and earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest two-turn figure recorded by a 2-year-old in 2008.

The Count Fleet, which Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones used to start his 3-year-old campaign in 2004, also will be contested at a mile and 70 yards. It is the first stakes for 3-year-olds to be run in New York in 2009.

On Monday, Haynesfield completed preparations for the Count Fleet with a relatively easy five-furlong move in 1:03.07 over Belmont Park's training track. Toby Sheets, the New York assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, was pleased with how the horse breezed.

"He's doing well, we'll just cross our fingers and hope we can repeat," Sheets said.

Though Haynesfield is by sprint champion Speightstown, Sheets believes the horse can excel in distance races.

"It's just how he goes, how he trains," Sheets said, adding that Haynesfield is "big, long legged, he just gets going after you're ready to pull him up."

Haynesfield didn't run from his maiden victory on Sept. 25 until the Damon Runyon on Dec. 7 because Sheets said he was hoping to find an allowance race for him. When one didn't fill, the Damon Runyon became Plan B.

"We were hoping for a nice effort and received one," Sheets said. "In retrospect, yes, I would say it was better than I thought we would get. I really wanted to run in the allowance race."

On the same day that Haynesfield won the Damon Runyon, another Asmussen-trained colt, Professor Z, looked good winning a first-level allowance race. Professor Z is nominated to the Count Fleet, but he has been shipped out of New York and will winter at Oaklawn Park, according Sobhy Sonbol, racing manager for owner Ahmed Zayat. Sobol said the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 16 is the first objective, with a possible start before that.

The only other confirmed runners for the Count Fleet are Mike from Queens and Pitched Perfectly. Pressure Point, Aswaaq, and Land Grant are possible.

Mr. Fantasy plays winning tune

Haynesfield isn't the only New York-bred soon-to-be 3-year-old to keep an eye on this winter.

Mr. Fantasy, a half-brother to the graded-stakes-winning statebred Tin Cup Chalice, made a snappy debut Sunday, winning a six-furlong maiden race by 10 1/2 lengths. After dueling with another rival through fractions of 21.77 seconds and 45.19, Mr. Fantasy drew off to a dominant score while simply under a hand ride from Alan Garcia.

Mr. Fantasy, a son of E Dubai, ran six furlongs in 1:10.51 and earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. Mr. Fantasy was purchased for $230,000 by a partnership led by West Point Thoroughbreds at the Fasig-Tipton Timonium sale in May.

"He surprised us a little bit," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Monday from south Florida. "He's always trained well, nice-looking horse, nice -moving horse. We thought he might need a run just because . . . but it seems like we stopped that bad habit and they all run well first time out.''

McLaughlin said he needs to get together with Terry Finley, the head of West Point, to decide whether to keep Mr. Fantasy in New York or ship him to Florida.

No excuse for Lucky Island; Etched hurt

Not all the news coming out of the McLaughlin stable was good. Lucky Island finished last of four in Saturday's Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap, but did not appear to have a legitimate excuse.

"He's still not the same horse that he was in the spring and summer; he's not breaking sharp, not taking Alan [Garcia] there," McLaughlin said. "We're scratching our head a little bit. He looks great, he's training great, he's not running great."

Lucky Island won four consecutive races earlier in the year, including the Bold Ruler and True North handicaps. He suffered a hoof injury in the Grade 1 Vosburgh.

Meanwhile, McLaughlin reports that the graded stakes winner Etched is hurt again and will miss significant time. Etched returned from a nine-month layoff on Nov. 20 to win an allowance race at Aqueduct. While training toward his next engagement, Etched suffered a condylar facture in his left foreleg and has been shipped to Kentucky to be examined by Dr. Larry Bramlage to determine if surgery is needed.

Etched went 2 for 2 in 2007, including a 6 1/2-length score in the Grade 3 Nashua. He was then shipped to Dubai where he finished fourth in the UAE Prestige Stakes on Feb. 14.

Interborough the New Year's feature

Zada Belle heads a field of six entered for Thursday's $65,000 Interborough Stakes, the featured event on a nine-race New Year's Day card. Fans also will get a 2009 NYRA calendar with the purchase of a track program. Fans also may buy the calendar for $1, maximum five per person.

Zada Belle has 5 wins from 8 starts, including the Seton Hall Stakes at the Meadowlands on Oct. 11. She is drawn in post 6 and will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez.

Her competition includes Coli Bear, A Rose for You, Are We Dreamin, Blowing Kisses, and Intentional Fever.

New entry schedule starts Wednesday

Horsemen are reminded that beginning Wednesday a new entry schedule will be in place for the duration of the Aqueduct meet. Entries for Fridays and Saturdays will both be taken on Wednesdays. Entries for Sunday racing will be taken on Thursdays. Entries for holiday Monday cards (such as Jan. 19 and Feb. 16) will be taken on Fridays.

Entries for Wednesdays will be taken on Saturdays, while entries for Thursdays will be taken on Sundays as has been the case for almost a year.