10/21/2010 2:41PM

New York Showcase offers classic opportunities

Barbara D. Livingston
Friend Or Foe goes into the Empire Classic 2 for 2 against New York-breds.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Grade 1 stakes winners Haynesfield and Rightly So are being prepared for Breeders’ Cup races. The multiple Grade 3 winning turf horse Get Serious is getting a vacation, pointing to a 2011 campaign. Bug Juice, leader of the state-bred juvenile division, is awaiting the $1 million Delta Jackpot

Despite the lack of participation by the cream of this year’s state-bred crop in Saturday’s New York Showcase Day program at Belmont Park, the 10-race card still has plenty to offer horsemen and horseplayers alike.

For horsemen, the 10 races offer $1.032 million in purse money including seven stakes races worth a total of $900,000, though that is a 10-percent cut from last year’s $1 million in stakes purses. For horseplayers, the 10-race card offers large, competitive fields – only one race has fewer than nine betting interests – with, in most cases, no clear-cut favorites. There is, as usual, a late pick four with a guaranteed pool of $300,000, which this Saturday consists of all stakes.

“It’s a good day for New York racing,” said Chester Broman, a prominent owner and breeder of New York-breds. “It’s very, very important.”

Broman, who unfortunately can’t attend Saturday’s card because of a family wedding in south Florida, will have runners in two of the stakes – including the entry of Friend or Foe and Mine Over Matter in the Empire Classic – and three of the races overall.

The highlight of New York Showcase Day is the $200,000 Empire Classic for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt. This race typifies the day. Haynesfield, who won the Empire Classic as a 3-year-old last year, would have been a standout in this year’s field. But coming off a victory in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Haynesfield is now in Louisville preparing for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 6.

That leaves a fairly wide-open 11-horse field in the Empire Classic, with more than half the field having a shot to win. The entry of Friend Or Foe and Mine Over Matter was made the 3-1 morning-line favorite. Friend Or Foe, trained by John Kimmel, is 2 for 2 versus New York-breds with both wins coming over Belmont’s main track.

In Saratoga, Friend Or Foe finished fourth in the Jim Dandy and sixth in the Travers and needed some time off following those races to deal with some physical issues. After encountering trouble in the first turn of both of those two turn stakes, Friend Or Foe should appreciate cutting back to a one-turn race.

“He’s not going to have to worry about getting banged around in the first turn,” Kimmel said. “He’s got nice tactical speed, he ought to put himself right in the mix.’’

Mine Over Matter, a son of Mineshaft trained by Ramon Hernandez, has won his last two races, including a 3 3/4-length victory over the older horses in the Salute Me Sir Stakes in his first start going a route of ground.

Wishful Tomcat has won his last seven starts versus New York-breds dating back to a 17 3/4-length maiden winner over the inner track on Dec. 12, 2007. After missing seven months because of a knee injury, Wishful Tomcat returned to win an open-company allowance race by one length over Belmont’s main track on Sept. 29. Ramon Dominguez was aboard that day, his ninth victory on Wishful Tomcat in his last 10 rides aboard the ridgling.

“As long as his knees don’t get to him, he’s going to run big again,” trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said of Wishful Tomcat. “He loves Belmont, he gets along great with Ramon. I know this race is not coming up a soft spot, but at the same time they’re going to have Wishful Tomcat to deal with. He’s a good New York-bred when he’s on his game and right now he’s on his game.”

Last year, Dominguez won 4 of the 5 dirt stakes run on New York Showcase Day, including the Empire Classic.

Three-year-olds Stormy’s Majesty, who is 4 for 4 versus New York-breds, and Ibboyee, who won the New York Derby at Finger Lakes, are also in with a chance.

In the day’s other races:

◗ In the $125,000 Hudson for male sprinters going six furlongs, Driven by Success, fifth in the Grade 1 Vosburgh last out, returns to New York-bred company, against which he has won 3 of his last 4 starts, including last year’s Hudson. His only loss came to Endless Circle, who seeks his fifth straight win in New York-bred company.

◗ With last year’s Iroquois winner, Rightly So, pointing to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, this year’s $125,000 Iroquois appears wide open. R Betty Graybull just upset many of these in the Anniron Stakes here on Sept. 29 and has run her best races at Belmont. My Dinah and Sapphire Sky, second and third, respectively, in this race last year, are back. City Broad returns from a two-month layoff, but trainer Bruce Levine says she is currently training better than any horse in his barn.

◗ Straight Story, dropping out of a last-place finish in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, may be the shortest-priced favorite on the card in the $125,000 Mohawk Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf. His toughest competition figures to come from Uncle T Seven and Pocket Cowboys. Johannesburg Smile is a live longshot.

◗ You Go West Girl, Meriwether Jessica, Exclusive Scheme and Chestoria have won the last four stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares on turf. They top a wildly contentious renewal of the $125,000 Ticonderoga, which also counts Crazy Catlady, Paraiba, Ms Stelleto and Akilina among its contenders.

◗ Bandbox, dominant winner of the Charles Town Juvenile, meets New York-breds for the first time in the $100,000 Sleepy Hollow for 2-year-old colts and geldings. He will have to contend with the Todd Pletcher uncoupled trio of Never Right Joey, Hysterical Cat, and Crea’s Law.

◗ Saltamontes, Hessonite, Floating Alone and Lady Vi head a field of 10 entered in the Maid of the Mist for New York-bred juvenile fillies.