01/26/2009 12:00AM

True Quality stirs high hopes for stable


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Ten years after campaigning the champion sprinter Artax, Ernie Paragallo believes he has another of that ilk.

Paragallo, the authorized agent for his family-owned Paraneck Stable, has big plans for True Quality, who withstood early pressure to win Saturday's Paumonok Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct.

"He might be another Artax," Paragallo said, referring to the horse who won three Grade 1 races in 1999 en route to being crowned champion sprinter. "He's in that category; he's as good as they come. He's got the same kind of heart and desire - he can do the same thing."

The Paumonok was True Quality's second win from three starts since his return following a lengthy layoff that came after he finished third to JoBe K in the Woody Stephens last Belmont Stakes Day. During the layoff, True Quality underwent surgery to remove an ankle chip but was also found to have a huge abscess in a front foot.

After winning a second-level allowance race by 8 3/4 lengths on Dec. 7, True Quality was run down by Fabulous Strike in the Grade 3 Gravesend, a race in which True Quality had a two-length advantage at the eighth pole but was late in switching leads.

Paragallo said True Quality came out of the Gravesend with a quarter crack in his right front foot, which noted equine hoof specialist Ian McKinlay repaired. True Quality had three bullet works leading up to the Paumonok.

In the Paumonok, True Quality was pressed early by Place Your Bet and Accredit. While the latter dropped back after a quarter-mile, Place Your Bet got in front of True Quality turning for home. But when True Quality, under Chuck Lopez, switched leads in midstretch he outfinished Place Your Bet. True Quality covered six furlongs in 1:10.52 and earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

"Chucky gave me a heart attack when that horse came to him and went past him because I knew Chucky wasn't riding him," Paragallo said. "He said, 'I gave him a break.' I said, 'You gave him a break?' "

Paragallo said he recalled Jorge Chavez telling him the same thing about Artax when Kona Gold came to him in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"Chucky said when [True Quality] relaxes he's got a lot more under him, and when he switched leads he just exploded," Paragallo said.

Though Paragallo intends to ultimately stretch True Quality out in distance, his immediate objectives involve races around one turn. Paragallo said the $150,000 General George at Laurel Park on Feb. 16 would likely be the next start for True Quality. The Grade 1 Carter on April 4 and the Metropolitan Handicap on May 25 also are on the docket.

On Monday, trainer John Campo Jr. said True Quality came out of the Paumonok "in phenomenal shape."

Fabulous Strike eyes Golden Shaheen

Fabulous Strike, who defeated True Quality in the Gravesend on Dec. 27, returned to the work tab on Monday, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Penn National.

Trainer Todd Beattie said his first choice for the colt's next start is the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai on March 29. Beattie said that if, for some reason, his horse could not get into that race, then he'd look to run in the General George at Laurel.

Frank Gabriel, racing secretary for the Dubai Carnival of Racing, said in an e-mail that Fabulous Strike could receive an invite to the Golden Shaheen as early as this week.

Though there are six weeks between those two races, Beattie said he would not want to run in both.

"You run in that race at Laurel, then I got to travel to Dubai coming off that," Beattie said. "I'd rather go there being fresh and strong. That trip takes a lot out of a horse. I don't want to go in trying to build back up after a race."

Haynesfield sharp in Whirlaway work

On the surface, a five-furlong work in 1:03.57 doesn't appear like much. Over the surface on which it was done, Haynesfield's five-furlong move Monday morning over Belmont Park's training track was solid enough to keep him on course for the $100,000 Whirlaway Stakes on Feb. 7.

Following the second renovation break Monday morning, Belmont's training track looked like a beach to the point where more than one horseman joked about setting up an umbrella in the middle of it.

So the fact that Haynesfield got his last quarter in 24.10 seconds was noteworthy after he went earlier fractions of 13.66, 27.16, and 39.47 under exercise rider Joey Ramos.

"He breezed very nicely," said Toby Sheets, the New York assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "No complaints at the moment."

Haynesfield will seek his fourth consecutive victory in the Whirlaway. He is 2 for 2 around two turns, including a 5 1/4-length score in the Damon Runyon and a half-length victory in the Count Fleet.

The new face of note among the 16 Whirlaway nominees is Peace Town, a son of Peace Rules who won the Maryland Juvenile Championship at Laurel Park in his last start. Among those considered likely to run are Mike From Queens, third in the Count Fleet; and recent winner Tranquil Manner, from the Darley Stable.

Belmont Park train service may be cut

Fans who depend on the Long Island Railroad to get to Belmont Park may be out of luck this spring if the Metropolitan Transit Authority has its way.

As part of an effort to cut $54 million in costs, the MTA has proposed eliminating LIRR service to Belmont Park, with the exception of Belmont Stakes Day. A public hearing on the matter was held last week in Garden City, where representatives from the New York Racing Association voiced their displeasure with the proposal.

"Eliminating service to the Belmont Park train station would undermine New York state's mandate for NYRA to promote racing and increase attendance at Belmont Park," said Joanne Adams, NYRA community relations manager. "The future economic development of the Elmont community's vision plan would be negatively affected by the closure of the Belmont Park train station."

A grass roots campaign to "Save the Train to Belmont" has appeared on the Internet, encouraging fans to contact the MTA and local legislators.