There may be more well known stakes races this upcoming weekend, but the race that intrigues me the most is the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct. Why?
The race includes Caleb’s Posse, who I felt should have at least won top male three year old last year, and quite possibly Horse of the Year. This will be his first race as a four year old, and first since winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile is convincing fashion.
His three year old resume also included wins in the following:
Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park
Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown
Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga
Foxwoods King’s Bishop Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park
Once trainer Don Von Hemel decided to keep him at middle distances rather than longer distances, this horse was unbeatable. Nothing wrong with beating the likes of Uncle Mo, Shackleford, Trappe Shot, Tapizar and The Factor in your last two races.
The Tom Fool only fields five other horses, but it’s a competitive bunch.
The five year old Todd Pletcher trained Calibrachoa has won two of his last three races including his latest, the Grade 3 Toboggan Stakes at Aqueduct on February 4 where he defeated a field of six others by 2 1/4 lengths. He ran six furlongs in 1:09.47. Prior to that, he finished 3rd in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile in Novemeber and won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Stakes earlier in that month. He will be tough once again.
Another horse to look out for is the lightly raced four year old colt Emcee out of the Kiaran McLaughlin barn. He’s only raced twice, but has won both of them. Last September he debuted by winning a maiden special weight race at Belmont Park by 4 1/4 lengths going six furlongs in 1:09.74. He was given time off after the race and wasn’t seen again until early February where he won an Allowance non winners of two at Gulfstream Park. He won by six lengths going seven furlongs in 1:20.83. Just .38 off the track record set by Hilda’s Passion last March. Both he and Calibrachoa run in similar style as they sit off the leader and wait to move as they come down the stretch.
In all likelihood, they will be chasing down Justin Phillip, the four year old Steven Asmussen trained colt. He’s only won once in his last 9 races, but he’s been on the board five of those nine races. His last win was a gate to wire in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont Park last June. He won by 3 1/4 lengths. He posted times of 22.23, 44.45, 1:09.56 and final seven furlongs time of 1:23.56. So it shows he is capable of taking the lead and staying, but hasn’t been able to do so while taking on Grade 1 or 2 company. Will he fare any better back at the Grade 3 level? This was a tough race to find out after being off since November where he finished 6th in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler. He didn’t even get the lead that day and ended last out of 6 horses. I’m sure something happened to give him almost four months off. He’s been training well with two bullets back to back on February 13 and 20.
Aqueduct – Tom Fool Handicap (G3) – $200,000 – Six Furlongs – Dirt
1. Capt. Candyman Can (KY) – Edgar Prado – 117 – Ian Wilkes
2. Royal Currier (FL) – Ramon Dominguez – 115 – Patricia Farro
3. Justin Phillip (KY) – Elvis Trujillo – 116 – Steven Asmussen
4. Emcee (KY) – John Velazquez – 114 – Kiaran McLaughlin
5. Calibrachoa (KY) – Cornelio Velasquez – 118 – Todd Pletcher
6. Caleb’s Posse(KY) – Rajiv Maragh – 122 – Donnie Von Hemel
This is a tough race for Caleb’s Posse. I believe there is enough speed to set him up, but don’t like the fact that he gives 4 pounds to Calibrachoa, 8 pounds to Emcee and 6 pounds to Justin Philip. Not to mention, I prefer him at seven furlongs or one mile. This could be too tall an order to ask of him. If he is good enough to overcome this, it certainly makes his case even more solid that he should have been picked for at least one award last month.