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Haynesfield Marquee Name in Empire Classic

Eight veteran New York-breds will gather Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park to stake their claim as "Best in New York" in the 36th running of the $200,000 McMahon Adena Empire Classic, the centerpiece of New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park.

In addition to the McMahon Adena Empire Classic and six other stakes races for New York-breds worth nearly $1 million, The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will celebrate the Empire State's food, wine and crafts with vendors located on the first floor of both the Clubhouse and Grandstand, and family activities in the backyard throughout the day.

Heading the Empire Classic field is Turtle Bird Stable's Grade 1-winning Haynesfield, who was victorious in the 2009 Empire Classic as a 3-year-old. In 2010, the son of Speightstown fashioned a 3-1-0 record from six starts, including a wire-to-wire upset of eventual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. After a disappointing start to his 2011 campaign, Haynesfield was given a 4 ½-month break from the races and on Saturday will make his first start since a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap.

"He's doing well and we are looking forward to getting him back to the races," said Toby Sheets, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "His last few works have been very good, and we excited about running him in this spot."

Haynesfield has been no worse than third in six starts facing fellow state-breds; overall, he has won nine of his 17 races and earned more than $1.1 million.

Ramon Dominguez rides Haynesfield, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, from post position 5.

Making an encore appearance in the Empire Classic is Icabad Crane, runner-up to Friend Or Foe in last year's race. Seventh in the West Point at Saratoga Race Course in August, he was most recently victorious in the Evan Shipman at the Spa in July.

"We've planned on this race since Saratoga, and he runs well fresh," said Graham Motion, who trains the 6-year-old gelded son of Jump Start for Earle Mack. "Last year, he stumbled out of the gate, but he ran a credible race, so it's logical to come back again."

Rajiv Maragh rides Icabad Crane, 4-1 on the morning line, from post position 5.

Inherit the Gold, who went on a five-race winning streak at Aqueduct Racetrack over the winter, including the Grade 3 Excelsior and the Kings Point, enters the 1 1/8-mile Empire Classic off a five-month layoff.

"After his last race [third in Belmont's One Count overnight stakes on May 15] we took a little chip out of the outside of his right front ankle," said James Hooper, who trains the 5-year-old gelded son of Gold Token for his wife, Susanne. "We brought him back to training at the end of August, and to date, he's done everything perfectly. I'm super happy with the way he's doing and I can't wait for the race; it's going to be great for Showcase Day."

Named to ride Inherit the Gold, the second choice at 5-2 on the morning line from post position 7, is John Velazquez.

The field for the $200,000 McMahon Adena Empire Classic:

Prog. No.  PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

1               1

Bigger Is Bettor

A Lezcano

121

R A Ubillo

15-1

1a             8

Mine Over Matter

J Lezcano

118

R M Hernandez

15-1

2               2

Green Monster

A O Solis

118

B R Brown

12-1

3               3

Johannesburg Smile

J Castellano

122

D Galluscio

 9-2

4               4

Haynesfield

R A Dominguez

120

S Asmussen

 8-5

5               5

Icabad Crane

R Maragh

122

H G Motion

 4-1

6               6

Uncle Smokey

J F Chavez

115

L Alvarez

50-1

7               7

Inherit the Gold

J R Velazquez

124

J Hooper

 5-2

Coupled entry - Bigger Is Bettor, Mine Over Matter
 

 

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