07/20/2011 3:17PM

Saratoga: Well-accomplished Gayego an outsider in talent-laden James Marvin

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Benoit & Associates
Gayego, winning last year's Ancient Title, will make his first start since February in Friday's James Marvin.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Gayego has earned more than $1.7 million, is a Grade 1 winner, and has been beaten less than 1 1/2 lengths combined in the last two Breeders’ Cups. But he figures to be a longshot at best in a $75,000 overnight stakes when he returns from a five-month layoff Friday at Saratoga in the seven-furlong James Marvin.

The James Marvin has once again come up extremely tough. Gayego’s stablemate, the two-time Grade 1 winner Vineyard Haven, won the race a year ago over a strong field but one not nearly as tough as the group assembled on Friday. The lineup includes 2010 Forego winner Here Comes Ben, Aikenite and Caixa Eletronica for trainer Todd Pletcher, 2010 Cigar Mile winner Jersey Town, and 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up Hamazing Destiny.

Gayego has not started since finishing far back in the Firebreak Stakes at Meydan in Dubai on Feb. 10. That was his first outing since he finished third, beaten slightly more than a length, in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Gayego was also fourth, beaten only a neck, in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Sprint four weeks after recording his only Grade 1 victory in Santa Anita’s Ancient Title.
Even Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, admits Gayego faces a tall task on Friday.

“He’s probably not fit enough to win off the layoff against the horses who have been running and obviously have an advantage,” said Mettee. “He’ll probably come with a good run and get tired like he did when we brought him back in the Triple Bend last year. It’s a very tough spot but a good one to get a race into him.”

Caixa Eletronica upset the Grade 3 Westchester in his first start since being claimed by Pletcher and owner Mike Repole for $62,500 last winter at Gulfstream Park and then finished third while making his Grade 1 debut in the Metropolitan Handicap. Both races were at a mile.
“A one-turn mile is his absolute optimum distance, but that’s not an option here,” said Pletcher.
Aikenite followed his come-from-behind nose decision over Apriority in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes by finishing fourth, two lengths behind Caixa Eletronica, in the Met Mile.

“Seven-eighths is Aikenite’s best distance,” said Pletcher. “This race always comes up tough and is a good springboard for the Forego.”

Here Comes Ben posted his first victory since winning the Forego here 11 months ago with a decisive 3 1/4-length triumph going seven furlongs in the Kelly’s Landing at Churchill Downs on June 24.

Hamazing Destiny has not started since finishing second, 1 1/2 lengths behind Big Drama, in the BC Sprint.

Robyn Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg, said Wednesday she was still uncertain whether Jersey Town would start in the James Marvin. Jersey Town has not competed since having a chip removed from his left ankle following his 34-1 shocker in the Cigar Mile.

“We never thought this race would come up this tough,” said Smullen. “And we have had to deal with some foot issues that developed three works back. The plan is to get three races into him before the Breeders’ Cup Mile and we do have other options besides this race, including the Vanderbilt.”