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Move to New York looking smart
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Though Ramon Dominguez gets sole credit for his victory aboard Old Fashioned in Monday's Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, it was really a group effort among several of his fellow riders.
Already aboard his US Airways flight from Philadelphia International Airport on Monday morning, Dominguez was forced to check his bag with all his equipment in it just before takeoff. While Dominguez arrived in Little Rock, Ark.- albeit three hours late after a delay in his stopover in Charlotte, N.C. - his equipment bag did not. Thus, Dominguez rode Old Fashioned with borrowed equipment from fellow riders Miguel Mena, Israel Ocampo, and Eddie Razo.
Of course, by the time Dominguez arrived back in Philadelphia on Tuesday morning, his bag already was in Arkansas.
See, it hasn't been a winter of exclusively perfect trips for Dominguez, by far the leading rider at Aqueduct's inner-track meet and who will now call New York home year-round.
But in reality, there have been few hiccups for Dominguez in 2009. Despite going 0 for 8 Thursday at Aqueduct, Dominguez ranks second in the country in wins (59) and third in purse money won ($1,836,708). His 70 wins over the inner track (the meet began last Dec. 3) is double the number of his closest rival. Before Thursday, Dominguez had won with 22 of his previous 56 mounts at Aqueduct.
"I'm definitely getting the best mounts," Dominguez said between races Thursday. "When things start going good, everything seems to fall into place, it doesn't take much effort. A decision that you make, whether it's a last-minute decision or something you think ahead, it always seems to be the right one."
Dominguez, 32, could have decided to ride in New York on a full-time basis several years ago. But as the dominant rider at Delaware Park and with his young family accustomed to the slower-paced life of the Mid-Atlantic region, Dominguez did not want to leave his comfort zone.
But Dominguez believes the quality of racing at Delaware Park has fallen off the last few years. That, combined with that track's decision to cut back on racing dates, has served as the impetus for Dominguez and his agent, Steve Rushing, to move to New York permanently.
"Our move to New York [isn't] based on whether we think that now we'll be more ready than we were," Dominguez said. "What has kept me from coming to New York hasn't been that I didn't think I fit in. I have a lot of confidence in myself, and I feel great about being able to ride for so many people. . . . Right now, I feel capable of competing with any of the guys, and I feel like if the business is there for me, with a little bit of luck, things will keep going well."
As the regular rider of Old Fashioned, Dominguez is poised to earn some national recognition as well. Old Fashioned confirmed his status as North America's leading Kentucky Derby contender with a solid 3 1/4-length victory in Monday's Southwest, improving his record to 4 for 4.
Dominguez thought he would win the Southwest in gate-to-wire fashion. Instead, he was outsprinted to the lead by Silver City, and Dominguez and Old Fashioned ended up chasing Silver City through early fractions of 22.47 seconds and 45.98 for the opening half-mile. Dominguez was impressed with Old Fashioned's off-the-pace run, as well as his gallop out afterward.
"I thought I could get the jump on the other horse and get the lead," Dominguez said. "As a consequence, we end up going very quick. I was very pleased with his response down the lane and very impressed with the way that he galloped out."
Though Dominguez has said he has also been impressed with the New York-bred Haynesfield - whom he has ridden to three straight stakes wins - he said Thursday that he will not be able to ride that horse in the Grade 3, $250,000 Gotham Stakes on March 7. Dominguez is committed to ride Court Vision in the Santa Anita Handicap that day.
Toby Sheets, the assistant trainer for Steve Asmussen, said no decision has been made on who will ride Haynesfield in the Gotham.
Go Go Shoot now with Levine
Go Go Shoot, who won both the Jimmy Winkfield and Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes here as a 3-year-old in 2008, has been purchased privately by Michael Repole and is now trained by Bruce Levine.
Levine said he bought the horse for Repole primarily because it was "a good value buy," though he declined to disclose the purchase price.
Go Go Shoot hasn't run since finishing sixth in the Eillo Stakes at Calder last Aug. 30 when he was in the barn of Joe Catanese. He had previously been trained by Jim Ryerson. Go Go Shoot was owned by the Devil Eleven Stable of former Duke University basketball standout Bobby Hurley.
"They told me he was burnt out," Levine said when asked why the horse had been off for so long. "Everybody said he was sound and to just give him some time off. Some guy called and asked if I was interested in buying him. I couldn't refuse."
Mor Chances wires Hollie Hughes
That Mor Chances won Thursday's Hollie Hughes Stakes was not surprising. The manner in which he won it was.
After rallying from last to win his two most recent starts, Mor Chances went gate to wire under Richard Migliore to take the $70,200 Hollie Hughes for New York-breds by 2 1/2 lengths. Longshot Executive Search rallied to be second, 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Be Bullish.
Migliore said Mor Chances didn't break very well in the Kashatreya Stakes on Jan. 19, and with the inner track favoring speed Thursday, he warmed up the 5-year-old horse more aggressively to have him sharper leaving the gate.
Mor Chances outsprinted three other horses for the lead and ran an opening quarter in 22.71 seconds and a half-mile in 45.97. He covered the six furlongs in 1:09.72 and returned $4.90 as the favorite.
"The way the track's been playing all day and the way the race looked on paper, the only way I thought he could lose was if I got off that bad again and got stuck further back than I wanted to be," Migliore said. "I didn't anticipate him being on the lead. When he broke so he clean, he took me there; I said, I'm just going to go on with him."
Mor Chances is now 3 for 3 since being claimed by Richard Dutrow Jr. on behalf of Vincent Scuderi and Sullivan Lane Stable.