03/08/2009 11:00PM

Mullins has plan for I Want Revenge


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Jeff Mullins is making his fifth trip down the Triple Crown trail in the last seven years. But never has the trainer felt more prepared for the challenge than he does right now with I Want Revenge, who established himself as a leading Kentucky Derby contender with an 8 1/2-length romp in Saturday's Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

"In previous years, I never really had a plan, it was like we'll try this, well, if that works we'll do the next thing," Mullins said Monday by phone from Southern California. "Now we got a plan, we got a fresh horse; I feel great."

As well Mullins should. In his first start on dirt, I Want Revenge blew away his eight rivals while running 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.65. It was the fastest of 14 Gothams run at the distance, though the majority of those runnings took place in the 1950s. Still, I Want Revenge was fast enough to earn a 113 Beyer Speed Figure.

With one deviation, Mullins will stick with his plan to run I Want Revenge back in the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial here April 4. Licensing issues for his help will force Mullins to ship I Want Revenge back to Southern California on Tuesday rather than leave him at Aqueduct as initially planned. Mullins said I Want Revenge will do all of his training at Hollywood Park before shipping back here a few days before the Wood, which will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

Mullins went to the Derby four straight years (2002-05), with his best finish being Buddy Gill's sixth to Funny Cide in 2003. Though three of his Derby starters were coming off wins in the Santa Anita Derby, Mullins believes this is the first time he'll have a horse coming in on the proper schedule.

I Want Revenge has had a couple of breaks during his career, which began last July at Hollywood Park. Mullins felt horses like Lusty Latin, Castledale, and Buzzards Bay weren't fresh when they got to the Derby.

"I'd give everything to be where I am right now with one of those horses," Mullins said. "This horse is just starting to come around. We've taken baby steps with him, we've been patient with him. His races are perfectly spaced right now. He's got four weeks to the Wood and another four weeks to the Derby."

Mullins said that as impressed as he was with I Want Revenge's performance, he was even more heartened by the fact "he came back and he wasn't even breathing hard."

I Want Revenge will definitely have a rematch with Gotham runner-up Imperial Council in the Wood. Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Imperial Council, said, "We got everything out of the race we wanted except for the win."

McGaughey said he was a tad surprised that Imperial Council was second-to-last in the early stages of race, especially given the modest early fractions.

"I think he learned a little something and maybe I learned something, too," McGaughey said. "You had to be impressed with the winner. I think if we'd have been a little closer, we might have given him a little more of a challenge."

Imperial Council arrived back at Payson Park in south Florida on Monday morning and will do all his training there before returning the week of the Wood.

Wood or Illinois Derby for Mr. Fantasy

Mr. Fantasy, third in the Gotham after setting the pace, will run next in either the Wood or the $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne the same day, said Terry Finley, president of West Point Thoroughbreds, which owns the colt.

Finley said Mr. Fantasy would "have to run one-two in one of those spots to warrant taking the next step."

Both Finley and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin were slightly disappointed Mr. Fantasy didn't fare better. However, he was making just his third start and first outside of New York-bred company. He was beaten a neck for second by Imperial Council.

The biggest disappointment of the Gotham was Haynesfield, who had won three consecutive two-turn stakes over the inner track. After breaking slowly, Haynesfield never truly got involved and finished eighth, beaten 26 1/4 lengths.

"He was messing around in the gate, broke bad, there's your race," said Toby Sheets, assistant to Haynesfield's trainer, Steve Asmussen.

Sheets said Haynesfield appeared to come out of the race in good order and that a determination on where the New York-bred colt would run next would not be made until after he resumes training.

McLaughlin eyes Bay Shore with two

While McLaughlin will stay on the Derby trail with Mr. Fantasy, he will keep two of his other 3-year-olds sprinting. Taqarub, ninth in the Fountain of Youth, and Counter Move, winner of a first-level allowance race going six furlongs here Saturday, will both point to the Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Shore Stakes on April 4.

Taqarub won the Jimmy Winkfield by 8 1/4 lengths over the inner track before trying the one-mile Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. Counter Move, meanwhile, looked good in his dirt debut after winning his career debut from the outside post going 5 1/2 furlongs at Turfway Park.

"He won from the 12-hole going 5 1/2 at Turfway and that's not easy to do," McLaughlin said. "He ran very well" Saturday.

McLaughlin said that A.P. Cardinal, fifth in the Sam Davis at Tampa on Feb. 14, would make his next start in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park on March 21.

Meanwhile, Charitable Man, who has not run since winning the Belmont Futurity last September, had his fifth workout of the year Monday at Palm Meadows going four furlongs in 49.85 seconds. McLaughlin expects Charitable Man to run somewhere on April 4 or 11, but had not decided which spot.

Winning Point may try Next Move

Winning Point made a successful return from a seven-month layoff on Sunday by winning the $67,540 Am Capable Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths. It was the first stakes win for the 5-year-old daughter of Point Given. She had run second in four consecutive stakes as a 3-year-old.

Winning Point, owned by Morris Bailey and Team Valor International, ran a mile in 1:39.63 and won going away despite failing to switch to her proper lead in the stretch. She earned an 83 Beyer.

McLaughlin, who trains the filly, said Winning Point could run next in the Grade 3, $100,000 Next Move Stakes on March 28.

"It's a little close back, but it wasn't an extremely hard race on her at all and she did it the right way," McLaughlin said. "I was happy with the race. She will come on from it because she needed the run."

Tony Dutrow assistant injured

Carol Fisher, the New York-based assistant for Tony Dutrow, suffered a broken vertebrae after being unseated from a horse she was breezing Sunday morning at Belmont Park. The horse, Ole Rugged Cross, suffered a condylar fracture of his right foreleg and had to be euthanized, Dutrow said.

Fisher was taken to a local hospital, but doctors had not yet decided if she was going to need surgery, Dutrow said.

"There is no spinal cord damage," Dutrow said. "I talked to the orthopedic surgeon, he is not sure if he's going to perform surgery or not. He is very confident that whether he does do surgery or does not do surgery that Carol is good and this will heal excellent and be no trouble whatsoever. Big picture, Carol's fine."