After watching Kentucky Derby winner and Belmont Stakes 2013
morning-line favorite Orb gallop a strong 1 ½ miles this morning over
Belmont Park’s main track,
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey pronounced the colt “good to go”
for tomorrow’s “Test of the Champion.”
“He’s ready,” said McGaughey, who was accompanied to the track
by Stuart S. Janney, III, who co-owns Orb with Ogden Mills “Dinny”
Later Friday morning, McGaughey reflected on his personal
journey the past five weeks, beginning with Orb’s 2 ½-length victory at
Churchill Downs in the first leg of
racing’s Triple Crown.
“It’s been a very eye-opening experience, in a positive way,”
said McGaughey. “I guess I never really took the time, maybe, to think,
‘You’ve had a pretty good career.
You’re in the Hall of Fame. You won the Kentucky Derby, among a lot of
other big races. You’ve been lucky to compete in a lot of big races, and
you’ve been able to work since 1985 with some great people.’ I’ve
accumulated a lot of great people around me, which
is one of the things I’ve always tried to do – surround myself with
people I have confidence in.”
McGaughey said the biggest, and most pleasant, surprise has been
the overwhelmingly positive feedback he’s gotten from acquaintances,
friends, the media and racing fans.
“I just never dreamed I would get such a good reaction,” he
said. “Even after the Preakness, I was walking down the track, signing
people’s hats they were hanging over
the rail, and someone was asking me why I did that, and I said, ‘They
were nice enough in defeat, I should be nice enough to stop.’ Nancy
Kelly [of the Jockey Club] said when I walked past her section, everyone
there stood up and applauded. I was disappointed
[when Orb finished fourth in the Preakness], not for myself, but for
the people who put so much into him, and his following that he didn’t
get to run his race. I mean, if he had come running and got beaten a
neck or something, OK, but I don’t think he got
to run his race.”
The moments after Orb’s victory in the Run for the Roses remain the most vivid for McGaughey.
“Getting down to the track afterward, I saw Jenn [Patterson,
Orb’s exercise rider] and she looked at me and said, ‘You know, we did
it.’ I don’t think I’ll ever forget
that,” he said. “We put our hearts and souls into it. I keep saying I
come third in this equation – the Phipps and Janneys come first, the
people come second, and I come third. So the reaction … I just never
dreamed all that existed. The headlines ‘Shug wins
his first Derby’
and ‘Shug this’ and ‘Shug that’ and all that. I was at an event on
Monday, and the emcee singled us out. The reaction last night at the
thing in the city [Belmont Stakes Charity
Celebration] was remarkable. And that’s just the little things. I’ve
been very, very surprised by the outside reaction. I never did sit down
and think about it, but it’s been a surprise, in a very positive way.
Maybe all these years, I took all that for granted.
You get cards and notes and stuff, people you don’t know, from distant
friends, and some of the things that were said, even when we lost ….
Anyway, I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
* * *
After D. Wayne Lukas put his contenders,
Oxbow, the Preakness Stakes winner, and
Will Take Charge, through their final paces this morning at
Park, the Hall of Fame trainer spoke outside his barn about his four Belmont Stakes winners.
Asked which one was the best, he said, “Probably Tabasco Cat,”
the first of his four in 1994. “Thunder Gulch (1995) was a real warrior.
He showed up every time. Tabasco
Cat was mentally a very tough horse to train. Even ‘Mack’ Miller, the
Hall of Famer, came by the day after and said, ‘I watched that horse
train all week, and I didn’t think there was any way in hell you could
with that horse.’ He wrote me a beautiful letter, which I still have,
after the race. It was a real accomplishment for him to do it, and, of
course, we did it for the right people, too.”
Tabasco Cat was bred and owned by Overbrook Farm and David P.
Reynolds, and he overtook Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin nearing the
final furlong and won by two lengths
under Pat Day in a compact six-horse field.
“Editor’s Note (1996) just ground them down. He just kept
grinding and grinding,” Lukas said, “and Commendable (an 18-1 long shot
in 2000), I caught them all of balance
with that. I told Pat Day, ‘You’re going to turn for home three lengths
in front, and Aptitude is not going to be concerned about you. He’s
going to be looking over his shoulder to see who’s coming, and you’re
going to go home in 25 and change, and he’s going
to have to do 23 [seconds], and he’s not going to be able to do it.’”
Commendable actually came home in 26.08 seconds for the final
quarter-mile under a vigorous hand ride by Day, while Aptitude rallied
from sixth to be beaten by a length
and a half.
Lukas has been saying all week that everyone tends to
overanalyze the Belmont Stakes contenders, and, in the end, nobody knows
which horses can run well at 1 ½ miles
and which can’t.
“We’re all in uncharted water,” he said. “You can go over it and
over it, but a lot of them just can’t run that far, especially when
they’re pressured. A lot of them
will maybe get it in the third race on Wednesday, but when we get into
this situation with a little more quality, we’re still guessing a little
* * *
With the track sloppy during Friday training hours, trainer Todd
Pletcher elected to tweak the training routines for his five Belmont
Midnight Taboo (Mike Repole) galloped 1 3/8 miles,
Palace Malice (Dogwood Stable) and
Unlimited Budget (Repole) galloped 1 ¼ miles, and
Revolutionary (WinStar Farm) and
Overanalyze (Repole) jogged.
Pletcher worked as a foreman and later as an assistant to Hall
of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas from 1989-1995, and his group represents
five of the nine Belmont Stakes
entrants that are trained either by Lukas or by his former employees.
Lukas trains Oxbow and Will Take Charge, and his former assistants
Dallas Stewart and Kiaran McLaughlin train Golden Soul and Incognito,
Pletcher said it’s no surprise Lukas’ employees have used his training and managerial techniques as a blueprint for success.
“When you look at the résumés of some of the guys who have
worked under [Lukas], it’s pretty impressive what they have been able to
accomplish,” said Pletcher. “A lot
of that is credit to spending time with him.”
Pletcher, who trains more than 100 horses, said his time with Lukas taught him the importance of being organized.
“When you’re training more than, say, 20 horses, the bigger your
stable gets and the more locations you’re at, the more organized you
have to be,” said Pletcher. “That
was one of the things we learned. You kind of get what you put into it.
I think over a period of time if you cover all of your bases and pay
attention to the little things, then things fall into place.”
* * *
On the eve of the Belmont Stakes, trainer Tom Albertrani decided to give Grade 2 Peter Pan winner
Freedom Child an easy Friday morning.
just jogged him one time around,” Albertrani said. “The track wasn’t
too bad. It was sealed pretty tight, just hard, so we opted to jog once
today. He looked great. He’s on his toes.”
the Peter Pan, Freedom Child broke from post 1 and led all the way
around, winning by 13 ¼ lengths in 1:49 for 1 1/8 miles over Belmont
sloppy, sealed main track.
The chestnut Mailbu Moon ridgling and jockey Luis Saez, Jr. will start from post 2 in the 1 ½-mile
Belmont. He is the co-fourth choice on the morning line at 8-1.
only thing I’d be concerned with is as long as he leaves there good and
keeps clear into the first turn,” Albertrani said. “After that,
whatever happens is going to happen, but as long as we get a clear run
into the turn and wherever he’s going to be placed, as long as he’s
doing it easy, that’s my only concern.”
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, St. Elias Stable and Spendthrift Farm, Freedom Child is one of seven
Belmont horses to have won on an off track, including Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
on the pace, as long as we’re in control early on, if he runs anything
like he did in the Peter Pan I think he’ll do it on the front
end,” Albertrani said. “Orb, depending on where he’s going to be, if
the pace is strong, naturally he’s going to come running. That’s the
only horse, I think, that’s going to be a factor in the race as far as
the closers go. But, if we’re on the front end
and we’re not setting anything too quick, I think our horse will be
Albertrani has been in two previous
Belmonts, running third with Brilliant Speed in 2011. He has maintained a quiet confidence all week.
“The only thing about the
is the mile-and-a-half distance,” he said. “That’s where everybody’s not
sure how far their horse will go. If it was a little shorter, I’d
probably be even a little more confident. But,
I’m happy with the way the horse is training, and I think he’ll carry
himself a mile and a half.”
* * *
With one day to go until Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, trainer Dallas Stewart is getting a sense of déjà vu.
Stewart will send out
Golden Soul in the Belmont,
five weeks after the Charles Fipke homebred ran second at odds of 34-1
in the Kentucky Derby, beaten 2 ½ lengths by Orb.
Orb and Golden Soul are among the 10
Derby horses to return in the Belmont, including Oxbow, who won the Preakness on May 18 after finishing sixth in the
feeling that he’s as good now as he was then,” Stewart said of Golden
Soul. “I’m feeling good about him up here. Other than Orb, he beat
Under Robby Albarado, who finished second in the 2007
Belmont with Curlin and in 2008 with Denis of Cork, Golden Soul will break from post 14, outside the entire field.
think the first turn will be important,” Stewart said. “Obviously, we
don’t want to be way, way wide. We’ll just let Robby handle that. If
everybody breaks good, I suppose he’ll just take him back and drop him
in. If they don’t, he’ll just try to work him over. He could be a little
wide, but I guess that’s OK if he’s not in traffic. We’ll just have to
Soul jogged 1 ½ miles on the main track Friday morning. He had been
galloping since his arrival late Tuesday afternoon, following a similar
pattern Stewart employed following the Derby.
gallops so strong all the time,” he said. “He galloped almost two miles
every day, and that’s even more taxing than working. And he did
old-time gallops. I think through the stretch, he’s going to have a
good bit of stamina, because he’s feeling great.”
Stewart feels Albarado, aboard for the first time in the
Derby, will have a better feel for Golden Soul, and is also glad to have Albarado’s experience on his side.
can’t make all kinds of moves going a mile and a half, and he knows
that,” Stewart said. “Robby feels great about him. He’s got the
the freshness, the soundness, the pedigree. He’s feeling right. He
looks great, and the track shouldn’t be a problem for him if it’s muddy
or whatever. It’s all good.”
* * *
In giving his analysis of
Incognito’s chances in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin used modern technology to make his point.
at the desk inside his barn 11 office Friday morning, McLaughlin
propped up his iPad and called up the replay of the Grade 2 Peter Pan
from the New York Racing Association website.
his stakes debut, Incognito ran near the back of the pack from post 8
and was dead last with an eighth of a mile to run, before closing with
a flourish along the inside to miss third by a nose.
His effort was easy to overlook behind that of the winner,
Belmont contender Freedom Child, who led gate-to-wire to win by 13 ¼ lengths.
you just read the chart, it looks like he just ran even,” McLaughlin
said. “But he was last, taking a lot of mud in the face, and at the
three-eighths pole, he dropped over to the inside. He came flying up
the rail when he got a clean face, and he actually galloped out in front
of the winner. That’s pretty strong.”
Incognito, who will run in the silks of Godolphin Stable in the
Belmont, galloped over Belmont’s
training track on Friday. He will be ridden for the first time by Irad
Ortiz, Jr., who replaces injured regular rider Mike Luzzi.
was talking to Irad this morning. The thing is, we have to settle
early,” McLaughlin said. “A lot of people think you have to be close,
we would like to settle back, mid-pack toward the rear. We can’t win if
we’re up 1-2-3-4, in my opinion. We’ll be back and we might take mud in
the face for a while. We’d like to get clear when it’s time to go.”
with kickback has been an issue with Incognito, who had won two
straight prior to the May 11 Peter Pan, including a victory over older
horses in an optional claimer on April 13 at Aqueduct.
doesn’t matter if it’s dry and fast, he doesn’t like dirt in his face
so much. He just doesn’t like it,” McLaughlin said. “We have enough
time and distance for the most part to get the last five-eighths with a
definitely was flying late up the rail [in the Peter Pan] and galloped
out in front of all of them. We’ve always liked him. He really wants
* * *
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez and his Belmont Stakes contender,
Vyjack, beat the heaviest rain by being one of the first horses out when the main track opened at 5:30 Friday morning.
“We got lucky. It was just sprinkling a little bit,” Rodriguez said.
Belmont will be the first race for Vyjack since finishing 18th
in the Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs over a sloppy, sealed track.
we were at Churchill with that mud over there, I don’t think he ever
looked comfortable on that track,” Rodriguez said. “Right now,
good. He galloped pretty good this morning. He looks like he’s in the
right frame of mind.”
by David Wilkenfeld’s Pick Six Racing, Vyjack won the first four starts
of his career including the Grade 2 Jerome and Grade 3 Gotham.
His first loss came in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, where he was third,
beaten a length, by Verrazano.
Listed at 20-1 on the morning line, Vyjack will break from post 11 in the 14-horse field.
a perfect world, we’d like to be sitting third or fourth, but we’ll see
how it goes,” Rodriguez said. “Hopefully, he breaks good and we’ll
take it from there. We just have to take a look and see what’s going
Julien Leparoux will be aboard Vyjack for the first time, replacing Garrett Gomez off the
Derby effort. Leparoux was third in last year’s
Belmont with 20-1 long shot Atigun.
owner wanted Julien because he has very good hands and he thought he
would fit the horse pretty good,” Rodriguez said. “I agree that he’s
got very, very good hands, and I think he’s going to get along great
with the horse. He’s one of the best riders in the country. We’re just
hoping for the best.”
The only geldings to win the
Belmont are Crème Fraiche in 1985 and Ruler On Ice, who paid $51.50 in 2011.
* * *
Freedom Child is widely expected to be one of the principal speed horses, if not the front-runner, in the 145th Belmont Stakes, but trainer Ken McPeek has
been pretty adamant all week that his Frac Daddy
is going to be rolling out of post position 1 and heading to the lead.
McPeek sent the Arkansas Derby runner-up out Friday morning for
his usual “Belmont Gallop” – back up to the quarter-pole, jog to the
wire, a full trip around and a strong
final three-eighths of a mile – and Frac Daddy returned to the barn
full of energy.
“We’re sending him from the inside,” McPeek said. “I’m telling
[jockey] Alan [Garcia], ‘Go.’ We’re not going to give up the one path
without a fight. We’re going to
try to keep him right in there, and if someone wants to go with us,
they can. Because I think that’s the way he needs to run, and if he’s
got the class to carry himself, fine, and if he doesn’t have the class,
Freedom Child starts in post position 2, right next to Frac
Daddy. McPeek is aware this is his primary early rival, with the next
speed horse in the gate being Oxbow
in post position 7.
“It looks like the two horse, if he breaks well, and he wants to
drop in, we don’t want him to drop in,” said McPeek. “We want to hold
that. I’ll tell Alan, ‘You have
to keep him in that gap, and don’t let the two horse drop in front of
you. That’s the key to us having any chance.”
* * *
Giant Finish was one of the first ones out on
Park’s main track this morning, beating most of the rain as he had an easy jog around the oval.
“We were one of the lucky ones,” said Chip Dutrow, who is
assisting his brother, Tony, in preparing the New York-bred son of Frost
Giant for the
Belmont. “It went really well for him.”
In his two outings over a sloppy track, Giant finish was fifth in the Damon Runyon after being bumped at the start, and 10th in the Kentucky Derby. He also
was second and third in two starts over a synthetic surface.
“His dad could run on top of anything, and he looks like he’s following in his footsteps,” said Dutrow.