In his 50th career start, Head Heart
Hoof became a graded stakes winner when he won the Grade 3 Toboggan on
February 2 at Aqueduct Racetrack. On Saturday, the 7-year-old gelding
will attempt to
double his graded stakes tally when he faces Toboggan runner-up
Johannesburg Smile and a contentious group of new shooters in the 38th edition of the Big A’s Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap.
The Tom Fool, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up, was
carded as the ninth race on the 11-race card and has a scheduled post
time of 4:34 p.m.
Head Heart Hoof, who has raced for a plethora of trainers during
his lengthy career, was transferred to Rudy Rodriguez in the fall and
in his first start for his new
trainer finished second in a conditioned $30,000 claiming race in
After winning a starter handicap in November at Aqueduct, he made three
straight stakes appearances, fading to third in the Valley Forge in
at Parx Racing before rattling off victories over Aqueduct’s inner
track in the True and Blue overnight stakes in January and the Toboggan.
In the Toboggan, Head Heart Hoof contested the pace in second
from the outside post, opened a two-length lead in the stretch after
dispatching the other front-runner
and staved off Johannesburg Smile’s late bid to win by a diminishing
Head Heart Hoof drew an outside post once again in the Tom Fool as he will be leaving from post 9 in the field of 10.
“The [outside] post helped him last time,” said Rodriguez, who
trains the gelding for a partnership headed by Michael Dubb. “He likes
the inner track, which is why he’s
running his best races now. We’re lucky to have him around.”
Cornelio Velasquez will ride Head Heart Hoof, 5-1 co-third choice on the morning line.
Johannesburg Smile, a two-time restricted stakes winner, seeks
his first graded stakes score after just missing in the Toboggan. The
versatile New York-bred was claimed
by trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole for $100,000 out of a
route victory in January at Aqueduct. In the Toboggan, his first start
for his new connections, he left from the rail post, tracked the pace
inside, split horses with a furlong to travel,
and just failed to overtake Head Heart Hoof.
“I think it’s easy to say if you flip-flop post positions that
maybe he would have run better, but I think he ran as well as he could
first time back off the claim,”
said Michael McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “The horse
came to us in great shape and he’s been in great shape. We’re looking
for a better draw and a better result. He’s healthy, he’s happy, and he
had a good work the other day. We’ll play the
hand we’re dealt. [He can run] from three-quarters to a mile and a
sixteenth, and he’s a horse who, like Caixa [Eletronica], will let us
pick some spots and have some fun.”
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez takes over aboard
Johannesburg Smile, also 5-1 on the morning line. The 6-year-old drew
The Pletcher stable will also be represented by Heart Butte, who
has won a pair of stakes around two turns. The Tom Fool will be his
first start since he was third in
the John B. Campbell Handicap a year ago at Laurel Park. Chris DeCarlo
will ride Heart Butte, 20-1, from post 5.
One of the newcomers is Sherry Parbhoo’s Off the Jak, who took
the Sunshine Millions Sprint for Florida-breds by three-quarters of a
length in January at
Park. He enters the Tom Fool off a fourth in
his turf debut, the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint on February 2. After
breaking slowly, Off the Jak made a mild rally to finish 5 ¼ lengths
behind the winner.
“Off the Jak has been doing great since the Sunshine Millions,
and last time I put him on the turf because I have another good
sprinter, Trinniberg,” said trainer Shivananda
Parbhoo. “I’m trying to run the two of them in difference places.
They’re both front runners; if one of them was a closer, it would be OK
[to run them against each other]. [Off the Jak] didn’t run badly on the
turf, but because this race in
New York was available I decided to run him there. I’d like to run in
New York, and I’d like to think he has it in him to run in
New York. I actually want to keep him on the turf, but it’s too long until the next big race on the turf.”
Willie Martinez will come in from
Florida to ride Off the Jak, 6-1. They’ll depart from post 8.
Godolpin Racing homebred Consortium, who was briefly on the
Triple Crown trail in 2012, comes into the Tom Fool off three straight
optional claiming starts at Aqueduct.
Third in his comeback race in November and beaten six lengths when
second to Big Business in December, he cleared the first allowance
condition on January 9 when he stalked the pace and drew off to a 2
“The time before his last start was his second race off a long
layoff, and he hooked a nice horse in that allowance race,” said trainer
Kiaran McLaughlin of the December
optional claimer. “Those horses haven proven they’re tough horses. We
ran well, but David Jacobson’s horse [Big Business] just beat us. We
didn’t think any less of [Consortium] after that race. He came back and
ran a big race. This race is a step up, but we’ve
always felt he’s this type of horse.”
McLaughlin added that he hopes the Tom Fool serves as a springboard to the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap on April 6.
Consortium, 10-1, will leave from post 6 with Eddie Castro aboard.
The Tom Fool attracted a pair of shippers from
California in Comma to the Top and Smash, who were respectively installed as the top two choices on the morning line.
Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, and Kevin Tsujihara’s Comma to the
Top, a Grade 1 winner going long as a 2-year-old, now races
predominantly in sprints and will be making
a quick turnaround in the Tom Fool. He won an off-the-turf renewal of
the Grade 3 Daytona in December at Santa Anita, then was fourth in that
venue’s Grade 2 Palos Verdes in January and third in last Saturday’s
Grade 2 San Carlos.
“I can’t remember ever [running a horse in a pair of graded
stakes within a week],” said trainer Peter Miller. “It’s unorthodox, but
he’s a unique horse. The owner asked
me how [the horse] was doing [after the San Carlos],
and he was eating well and his energy level was good. [The owner] then
asked if there was any reason for us to not go [to the Tom Fool], and
I said there wasn’t. He’s not your average horse, and there aren’t a
lot of big races for sprinters.”
Joel Rosario has the call aboard Comma to the Top, 3-1, from post 2.
Smash, second in the 2011 Carry Back at Calder, returned from an
11-month absence to finish fifth in the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood on
December 2 at
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for Kaleem Shah, the 5-year-old
will be making his second start off the layoff in the Tom Fool.
“He just gets a little jarred up,” said Baffert of Smash. “He’s a
very small horse. We’ve freshened him up. Hopefully, he’ll run well and
like it there. He always runs
well off the bench. We’ve got to get these horses separated a little
Irad Ortiz will ride Smash, 7-2, from post 10.
Be Bullish, Saturday’s Charm, and St Liams Halo complete the field.