03/02/2011 5:02PM

Stay Thirsty gets chance to shine in Gotham

Barbara D. Livingston
Stay Thirsty (right) works out with his champion stablemate Uncle Mo.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Stay Thirsty will try to step out of the shadow of his more heralded stablemate Uncle Mo and step onto the Triple Crown trail when he heads a field of nine entered to run in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

On an otherwise quiet weekend in the 3-year-old division, the Gotham will serve as the biggest race for Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Only five of the nine 3-year-olds entered for the 1 1/16-mile Gotham, however, were early nominees to the Triple Crown series. Only two of the Gotham entrants have won a stakes – Toby’s Corner the Whirlaway here last month and Preachintothedevil the Champangeforashley on New Year’s Day.

The Gotham is one of four stakes on Saturday’s 11-race Aqueduct program that begins at 1 p.m. The Grade 3, $150,000 Tom Fool for older sprinters, the $65,000 Fred “Cappy” Capossela for 3-year-old sprinters and the $65,000 Broadway for New York-bred female sprinters are also carded. Since those three races have only five betting interests each, they will be run early on the card.

The Gotham, which goes as race 10, is the traditional prep for the Grade 1 Wood Memorial to be run here on April 9. Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher, the owner and trainer, respectively, of Stay Thirsty, plan to be represented in the Wood by Uncle Mo, the undefeated 2-year-old champion of 2010 who is expected to make his 3-year-old debut in the Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream on March 12.

So no matter what Stay Thirsty does in the Gotham, it is unlikely he returns for the Wood. As a native New Yorker, however, Repole wanted to be represented in the Gotham, and the distance and timing of the race fit Stay Thirsty’s schedule.

I’ve always said one win in New York is equal to five wins everywhere else,” Repole said. “I grew up going to the Gotham and the Wood. To have a horse in the Gotham that I own is special.”

Repole shelled out $500,000 for Stay Thirsty at a 2-year-old in-training sale. He was by a Preakness winner, Bernardini, out of a mare that threw a Belmont Stakes runner-up, Andromeda’s Hero. To Repole, the pedigree screamed two turns and 3-year-old.

When Stay Thirsty ran so well sprinting as a 2-year-old – he won his maiden in his second start gong six furlongs and finished second to Boys at Tosconova in the Grade 1 Hopeful going seven furlongs – it was gravy.

“When Todd bought this horse for me, we bought a 3-year-old,” Repole said. “I’m shocked what this horse did as a 2-year-old.”

That Stay Thirsty finished fifth, beaten 14 1-2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last November, was easy for Repole to handle because he owns Uncle Mo. Repole has been heartened by the positive performances in 3-year-old stakes this year from horses like Rogue Romance and Riveting Reason, who were also well-beaten by Uncle Mo in the Breeders’ Cup.

“He got Mo-joed like everybody else,” Repole said. “Losing to Uncle Mo by 15 lengths is not embarrassing.”

In the Gotham, Stay Thirsty will break from post 5 and likely go off the favorite under Ramon Dominguez. Toby’s Corner, who has won three straight races for owner/breeder Dianne Cotter and trainer Graham Motion, will likely go off the second choice. He drew post 4 and will be ridden by Eddie Castro.

The Fed Eased and Dawly are recent winners who will be trying two turns for the first time. Preachintothedevil was third in the Whirlaway after winning the Champangeforashley against New York breds. Starship Caesar, Norman Asbjornson, Nacho Saint and Isn’t He Perfect complete the field.

Calibrachoa heads Tom Fool

Repole, Pletcher and Dominguez will also have the horse to beat in the Grade 3, $150,000 Tom Fool when they send out Calibrachoa in the six-furlong sprint, which will be run over the inner track for the first time.

Claimed for $40,000 in November, Calibrachoa has recorded back-to-back stakes wins in the Gravesend and Grade 3 Toboggan, both over the inner track. Calibrachoa, the 119-pound starting highweight, will break from the outside post in the six-horse field. He will be coupled with Have You Ever, who will break from post 3 under Victor Santiago and who will likely be a pace factor.

Flat Bold, who looked good winning a third-level allowance race from off the pace here in January figures to be Calibrachoa’s toughest rival.

Others entered include Deputy Daney, a two-time stakes winner over the inner track, Fastus Cactus, and the New York-bred Dahlgren Chapel.

Fort Hughes skips Capossela

Fort Hughes, an impressive 4 3/4-length winner of the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes in January was not entered for Saturday’s $65,000 Fred “Cappy” Capossela Stakes, but the six-furlong sprint stakes for 3-year-olds only drew a field of only five.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Fort Hughes ran such a big race in the Winkfield – he earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure – that he wanted to give the colt more time to be ready for the Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Shore Stakes over the main track on April 9.

“He ran unbelievable on all figures last time, and we’re just pointing for the Bay Shore,” McLaughlin said. “We already won for $65,000, we need to step up.”

Vengeful Wildcat, winner of the Tyro Stakes and runner-up in the Grade 3 Sapling last September, is slated to make his 3-year-old debut in the Capossela. Rift, a first-level allowance winner last out, was a late entrant into the field. He breezed a half-mile in 50.50 seconds over Belmont’s training track on Wednesday.

Sensational Slam, a two-time stakes winner on synthetics as a 2-year-old, will make his 3-year-old and dirt debut in the Capossela. Diski Dance completes the field.

Lots of Stones seeks seventh straight

Lots of Stones, who has won her last six consecutive starts, will make her stakes debut in the $65,000 Broadway Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares at six furlongs. Lots of Stones began her streak last March 27 with a win for $25,000 claiming tag and has gradually worked her way through New York-bred and open allowance conditions.

Meese Rocks, a multiple New York-bred stakes winner is the horse to beat. Mineralogist, unraced since taking the 2009 Maid of the Mist Stakes, Big Brownie and Laylaben complete the field.

Haynesfield may breeze this weekend

Haynesfield, who upset subsequent Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, could have his first official breeze of the year this weekend, assistant trainer Toby Sheets said Wednesday.

Sheets and owner Harvey Weinstein both said that the harsh winter has disrupted Haynesfield’s training schedule, but that the horse has been galloping steadily for the last several weeks.

“I just want good weather so I can train,” Sheets said. “You can get tons of foot issues in the wintertime.”

Weinstein, who was at Belmont on Wednesday watching Haynesfield and others train, said there is no set timetable for Haynesfield, who has proven effective in races from a mile to 1 1/4 miles.

“We always let the horse decide – that’s been our history,” Weinstein said. “Until we get on a regular breeze program we won’t know where we’re at.”

Haynesfield has not run since getting beat a nose in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last Nov. 28. The Metropolitan Handicap, a one-mile race at Belmont, is scheduled for May 30.