02/23/2009 12:00AM

I Want Revenge gets first dirt test in Gotham


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The connections of I Want Revenge want to find out sooner rather than later how their horse handles dirt. Toward that end, I Want Revenge will ship cross-country later this week to prepare for a start in the Grade 3, $250,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 7.

I Want Revenge, a son of Stephen Got Even, only has raced on synthetic surfaces. Though he only has a maiden win from six starts, he was beaten just a nose by the West Coast's leading Kentucky Derby contender Pioneerof the Nile in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity last December at Hollywood Park and 1 1/2 lengths by that same horse in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7.

Trainer Jeff Mullins said neither he nor jockey Joe Talamo felt I Want Revenge handled Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface as well as he did Hollywood Park's Cushion Track, so it didn't make sense to run I Want Revenge back in this Saturday's Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.

"He didn't act like he handled Santa Anita that well, not as well as he did Hollywood Park,'' Mullins said. "Hollywood Park has basically transformed into a dirt track anyway. If we got Triple Crown dreams, we want to see if he can handle the dirt or not before we get too far.''

Mullins said he is hoping to line up transportation later this week to fly I Want Revenge to New York so that he could get one workout over the inner track before the Gotham. Mullins said if I Want Revenge were to run well in the Gotham - run at 1 1/16 miles - he may stay in New York and run in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial over Aqueduct's main track on April 4.

Monday, I Want Revenge worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds at Hollywood Park.

"He galloped out really strong; three-quarters in 1:13 and just kept going,'' said Mullins. "It was a good work.''

In other Gotham news, Haynesfield breezed five furlongs in 1:03.17 over Belmont Park's training track Monday morning. With a strong cross-wind blowing, Haynesfield worked in splits of 13.82 seconds, 26.98, and 39.17, meaning he got his final quarter in 24 seconds. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:17.26.

"I thought his breeze was beautiful,'' said Toby Sheets, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "Galloped out strong, full of himself; lot of energy, real pleased.''

Carol Seaver, the racing manager for Harvey Weinstein's Turtle Bird Stable, said Monday afternoon that Weinstein has chosen C.C. Lopez to ride Haynesfield in the Gotham. Ramon Dominguez, who had ridden Haynesfield to three consecutive stakes wins, is committed to ride Court Vision that day in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

Also, trainer Shug McGaughey confirmed that Imperial Council would run in the Gotham. A son of Empire Maker, Imperial Council has won 2 of 3 starts, including a two-length victory in a first-level allowance race on Feb. 14 at Gulfstream Park. The Gotham would mark the first start around two turns for Imperial Council.

McGaughey chose the Gotham over races such as the Tampa Bay Derby (March 14) and the Lane's End Stakes (March 21) primarily because of concerns over those two surfaces.

"I hate to take him over to Tampa, a deep track, without having a race over it,'' McGaughey said. "The [Lane's End] is on Polytrack, the Blue Grass is on Polytrack. I'd like to get him to the Wood if he's that kind. It's not a win-or-else proposition. Hopefully get a good race in him to get us to the next step.''

Trainer Todd Pletcher plans to run both Masala and Naos in the Gotham. Masala finished second to the Pletcher-trained Take the Points in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 31. Naos won a first-level allowance race at Philadelphia Park by 3 1/4 lengths on Feb. 15. Both horses are sons of Lion Heart.

Also scheduled to run in the Gotham are Mr. Fantasy, unbeaten in two starts; Russell Road, a winner of six straight at Charles Town and Laurel; and possibly Wildcat Brief, second in the Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes.

What a Pear targets Ashland

Having established herself as the leading 3-year-old filly in New York this winter, What a Pear will now try to see where she fits in nationally when she makes her next start in the Grade 1, $400,000 Ashland at Keeneland on April 4.

What a Pear, a New York-bred daughter of E Dubai trained by Joe Parker, improved her record to 4 for 4 with a dominating 10 1/4-length victory in Sunday's $70,330 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct. What a Pear, who ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.17 while being geared down for the final 50 yards by jockey Channing Hill and earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

"I'm still in awe of it,'' said Russell Cohen, the breeder of What a Pear and the son of the filly's owners Ira and Bernice Cohen. "I just sat there pretty much numb to see a gifted animal like that.''

Russell Cohen said the Ashland was chosen over a race like the Grade 2 Comely at Aqueduct on April 11 because of the timing, the two turns, and the Grade 1 status. The Comely is a Grade 2 run at a one-turn mile on April 11.

"In talking to people who look at these things, she ran as good a race as any filly in the country,'' Cohen said. "Why not take a shot? It's a Grade 1.''

Cohen said the only drawback is running on Keeneland's Polytrack.

"I believe in dirt,'' Cohen said.

Cohen added that he wouldn't ship What a Pear to Keeneland early to get accustomed to the synthetic surface. Cohen said he spoke to trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who won the 2007 Ashland with Christmas Kid, about shipping in early and he advised against it.

"They like it or they don't like it,'' Cohen recalled Jerkens telling him.

Last year, Little Belle won the Ashland after winning the Busher. Little Belle did all of her training in New York leading up to the Ashland.

Researcher will return for Stymie

Researcher, who shipped here from West Virginia to win the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap on Dec. 13, is expected to return to New York for Saturday's $65,000 Stymie Stakes.

The Queens County was Researcher's fourth consecutive victory, and third in a stakes. His rivals are expected to include Barrier Reef, winner of the Evening Attire Stakes, Barcola, Brilliant Son, Manteca, True Resurgence, and possibly Real Merchant.