Consistent Gitchee Goomee Tops Hettinger

The always-consistent Gitchee Goomie goes for her second straight stakes victory Sunday at Belmont Park as she heads a field of eight New York-bred fillies and mares in the $100,000 John Hettinger on the inner turf course.


Trained by Rick Violette, Gitchee Goomie enters the 1 1/8-mile John Hettinger off a hard-fought victory in the Yaddo at Saratoga Race Course, where she outkicked Rogue’s Jewel through the final furlong to win by a nose. The victory lifted her 2011 record to 3-3-0 from six starts, including a win in the one-mile Mount Vernon for state-breds at Belmont in May and an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park in April that launched her 4-year-old campaign.


“She’s such a metronome; she’s like clockwork,” said Violette, who trains the daughter of City Zip for Patsy Symons. “She’s a pleasure.”


Having fared well in open company – Gitchee Goomie was third in last year’s Grade 1 Garden City and second by a neck in the Grade 3 Beaugay at Belmont in May – her connections had toyed with the idea of running her in Sunday’s Grade 3 Noble Damsel, but opted instead for the John Hettinger.


“The Noble Damsel is a flat mile, and her best numbers seem to come around two turns,” said Violette. “It also gave us an extra week since the [August 19] Yaddo. Plus, it still gives us time to experiment later if we want to get real brave.”


Alan Garcia will ride Gitchee Goomie, who drew post position 6 as the 8-5 morning-line favorite under high weight of 123 pounds.


Returning from the Yaddo as well are runner-up Rogue’s Jewel (3-1) and third-place finisher Frivolous Buck (6-1), who drew the far outside and the rail, respectively.


“I thought she stepped up and ran well [in the Yaddo],” said Carlos Martin, who trains Rogue’s Jewel for Blue Devil Racing Stable. “She came out of it really well. I’m going to take another shot at Gitchee Goomie. She’s tough.”


Also coming off a stakes victory at the Spa is William Punk, Jr. and Phil DiLeo’s Hessonite, who rallied from sixth to beat males in the New York Stallion Series on August 11. The victory was the third from four starts this year for the 3-year-old Freud filly, who also won the NYSS Cupecoy’s Joy at Belmont in June and an allowance at Aqueduct Racetrack in April.


Like Gitchee Goomie, Hessonite had been under consideration for a graded stakes, but a slight illness took the Grade 1 Garden City off the radar, said trainer David Donk.


“We had a small setback when she spiked a little fever, and that took the Garden City [September 17] out of the equation,” said Donk, who will also saddle Michael and Lynn Shanley’s Freedom Rings in the John Hettinger. “She’s doing well now.”


Ramon Dominguez is named aboard Hessonite, who drew post position 4 and was listed at 8-1 on the morning line, while Freedom Rings, under jockey John Velazquez, drew post position 2 at 12-1 on the morning line.


Making her turf debut for trainer John Kimmel is Mineralogist, a head winner of the Saratoga Dew at the Spa on August 29. The victory in the 1 1/8-mile race was the first in five 2011 starts for the 4-year-old Mineshaft filly, who was unraced in 2010 after an impressive juvenile campaign that included scores in the Joseph A.Gimma and the Maid of the Mist.


“It’s a move we thought we might try,” said Kimmel, who trains Mineralogist for Chester and Mary Broman. “Looking ahead to New York Showcase Day, there’s no 1 1/8-mile race for fillies on the dirt, only the Ticonderoga on the turf. We worked her on the turf last Sunday [5f, 1:03.68] and David Cohen said she handled it fine. She’s got the right running style, and we’ll see if she has an aptitude for it.”


Cohen will ride Mineralogist, 20-1 on the morning line, from post position 3.


Seeking her first victory of 2011 is the 2010 John Hettinger victress, Exclusive Scheme, who missed by 1 ½ lengths in the Irish Linnet at Saratoga on July 24 and next finished eighth in the Yaddo.


“She had bad racing luck in the Irish Linnet; she never had anywhere to go the whole way, and then she came back a little quick in the Yaddo,” said Billy Badgett, who trains the 5-year-old daughter of Saarland for Paris Hill Thoroughbreds. “She’s kind of a free-running horse who doesn’t respond well if you take hold of her. She is doing well, and I expect she will run OK.”


Corey Nakatani will be aboard Exclusive Scheme, 10-1 on the morning line, from post 5.


The Christophe Clement-trained Akilina is also in search of her first win of 2011 as she comes off a nearly four-month layoff. Third in last year’s John Hettinger, the 5-year-old daughter of Langfuhr most recently was fourth, beaten two lengths by Gitchee Goomie, in the Mount Vernon.


“She bruised both front feet, which necessitated the time off,” said Clement, who trains Akilina for Oak Bluff Stables. “She has not won for a long, long time, which is annoying. I think she is fit enough, and she needs to run.”


Rajiv Maragh rides Akilina, 6-1 on the morning line, from post position 7.


Spa City Princess and Go Unbridled will run only if the race comes off the turf.


The field for the $100,000 John Hettinger:








Frivolous Buck (NY)

E Castro


G Weaver



Freedom Rings (NY)

J R Velazquez


D G Donk



Mineralogist (NY)

D Cohen


J C Kimmel



Hessonite (NY)

R A Dominguez


D G Donk



Exclusive Scheme (NY)

C S Nakatani


W Badgett, Jr.



Gitchee Goomie (NY)

A Garcia


R A Violette, Jr.



Akilina (NY)

R Maragh


C Clement



Rogue's Jewel (NY)

J Castellano


C F Martin



Spa City Princess (NY) (MTO)

J F Chavez


P J Kelly



Go Unbridled (NY) (MTO)

R A Dominguez


H A Jerkens



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