Kentucky Derby winner Orb
had a strong 1 3/8-mile gallop Thursday morning at Belmont Park, and
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said he sees “no negatives” as the
colt heads into Saturday’s 145th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes as the 3-1 favorite to rebound from his fourth-place finish in the Preakness.
Photo: NYRA / Coglianese Photos
“He’s traveling really well over the track,” McGaughey said of Orb. “I haven’t lost confidence in him at all.”
McGaughey, who was “quietly confident” heading into the
Derby and “more uptight” as the Preakness approached, said he’s been enjoying the buildup to the rubber match with Preakness winner
Oxbow, trained by fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.
“You get a guy like
he makes it fun,” said McGaughey. “He’s complimentary as well as
competitive. I’m the same way; I’m competitive, I want to beat him.
remarkable guy. To still be at the top of the profession as long as
he’s been there, all the changes he’s brought to the thoroughbred
industry … he’s got a real admirer in me.”
addition to the Preakness winner, Orb must also contend with 12 others,
including a quintet of horses from trainer Todd Pletcher that comprises
35.714 percent of the field.
“I look at [Pletcher’s horses] individually,” said McGaughey. “I think
Overanalyze and Revolutionary
are both horses we’re going to be worried about. Overanalyze ran a
really good race in the Arkansas Derby, and Revolutionary has had a
very good spring and ran well in the Derby.
I’m going to look at them a little harder than the others [Palace
Malice, Unlimited Budget and Midnight Taboo]. What I will look at all of
is where they’re going to fit in for the pace scenario. I’ve got a
pretty good idea, but we’ll see what happens.”
* * *
After sending out Preakness winner
Oxbow and Grade 2 Rebel winner Will Take Charge out for routine gallops Wednesday morning, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas talked about his two
Belmont horses. While Oxbow has the second jewel of the Triple Crown on his resume, it was Will Take Charge, eighth in the
Derby and seventh in the Preakness, whom Lukas talked up.
“I look at the circumstances and read what I’ve got in front of
me,” said Lukas. “If I see any brilliance in the horse at any point in
time, and it’s been dormant for
a race or two, or the surface doesn’t suit the horse, or something, as
long as I know it’s there and I’m not living in a fantasy land, I’m
there. [Will Take Charge] won the Rebel. He’s a dangerous horse in this
race, too. The configuration of the track ought
to help him, with those long, sweeping turns. He’s a long-striding
By contract, Oxbow is a compact runner who when comfortable develops and maintains a high cruising speed.
“It probably doesn’t compliment his style,” Lukas said of the huge
Belmont oval, but he’s such a tough horse and a fighter; he keeps coming back.”
Lukas’ reputation for winning with horses that seem improbable
is well-known; his previous Triple Crown victory prior to the Preakness
was with 18-1 Commendable in the
2000 Belmont Stakes.
“I think Wayne Lukas, who a lot of people have to look up to, is
a guy that has no fear whatsoever,” said Ken McPeek, who will saddle
longshot Frac Daddy in the
“[Oxbow] has two bad races on his page, and then he comes back and wins
the Preakness because he’s tenacious and he keeps coming back and he
doesn’t have any fear. It’s not about high
percentages, or me; it’s about taking a chance and rolling the dice.”
* * *
Todd Pletcher’s five Belmont Stakes contenders took to the main track on Thursday, with all five galloping various distances.
Revolutionary galloped one mile,
Palace Malice and Unlimited Budget traveled 1 ¼ miles, and
Midnight Taboo went 1 ½ miles.
“It’s just a feel for what they need,” said Pletcher of how he
selects the gallop distances. “It’s one of the things we do every
morning; we decide based on how much
they put into it, how much weight they carry and how much they are
Pletcher, who will become the first trainer in the modern era to
send out five horses in a single running of the Belmont Stakes, said he
considers many factors when
determining whether a horse is worthy of competing in the 1 ½-mile
“First and foremost, you need a horse of enough quality to go
long, and they need to have the pedigree and running style that suggest
they’ll get the distance,” said
Pletcher, who trains Overanalyze, Unlimited Budget, and Midnight Taboo
for Mike Repole, Revolutionary for WinStar Farm, and Palace Malice for
With more than a third of the Belmont Stakes entrants in his
barn, Pletcher appears to be well hedged for any possible pace scenario
“Palace Malice will be laying close, Revolutionary will be
laying back, and we have three who will be laying somewhere in the
middle,” said Pletcher. “From that standpoint,
they all complement each others’ running styles. You always worry when
you have more than one horse in the race that you have two
front-running, headstrong horses, but in this case I think everyone
works well together.”
* * *
Multiple graded stakes winner
Vyjack returned to the track Thursday morning for the first time following his final pre-Belmont Stakes breeze in 59.04 on Tuesday.
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez had Vyjack out shortly after the main track opened at 5:30 a.m., as has been his custom this week.
horse jogged very good this morning,” Rodriguez said. “He was happy; he
was bouncing around. It looks like he bounced good out of the work.”
Vyjack will break from post 11 under new rider Julien Leparoux in the
Belmont, his first race since finishing 18th
of 19 in the Kentucky Derby on May 4.
far, so good,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been eating very good, he’s very
strong, and he’s healthy. He’s walking like he’s very proud of himself.”
Also on Thursday, Rodriguez breezed
Sage Valley three furlongs in 37.49 on the main track.
Valley is among the field of seven for Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 RTN True North Handicap.
* * *
All signs continue to be positive for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and his
son of 1992 Belmont winner A.P. Indy and grandson of 1977 Triple Crown
champion Seattle Slew galloped 1 ½ miles over Belmont Park’s training
track on Thursday.
“He trained great,” said McLaughlin, who won the 2006
Belmont with Jazil. “He went real happy and smooth. He looked great. We’re very happy with him.”
prospect of wet weather for Saturday is less of a concern for
McLaughlin than where Incognito and new rider Irad Ortiz Jr. find
during the race.
track might be wet, we don’t know,” McLaughlin said, “but we just have
to work it out. He handles it wet; he just doesn’t like it in his
face. At a mile and a half, Irad can work a spot out to get a clean
face at some point in the race. It won’t be a big deal.”
joined trainers Todd Pletcher and Dallas Stewart, retired Hall of Fame
jockey Angel Cordero Jr. and Hall of Fame conditioner D. Wayne
Lukas for dinner at Pletcher’s home in Garden City, N.Y. Wednesday
night. McLaughlin, Pletcher and Stewart all worked under Lukas before
going out on their own.
“It was fun. It was great to get-together, because
Wayne’s in Kentucky most of the time,” McLaughlin said. “We’re all good friends. It’s nice, because
was a teacher and a coach before he was a trainer, and he’s still a
teacher and a coach. That’s why he’s helped us so much in life.”
* * *
In 2006, trainer Tom Albertrani entered a Triple Crown race with a fresh, talented horse and came away with an upset victory.
Seven years after Bernardini’s triumph in the Preakness, Albertrani is taking aim at the Belmont Stakes with
Freedom Child, who has been gaining plenty of attention leading up to the race.
been talking about this horse quite a bit all week,” Albertrani said
Thursday, after Freedom Child galloped 1 ¼ miles on the main
track. “Hopefully, it gives you a little more confidence. I like what
I’m seeing. I’m getting all the good signs. He couldn’t be doing any
had similar feelings going into the Preakness with Bernardini, whose
victory was overshadowed by the breakdown of Kentucky Derby winner
Barbaro. Bernardini would go on to prove himself with wins in the Grade
1 Travers and Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and be named Champion
just felt with the way Bernardini was training going into the
Preakness, I had about the same level of confidence as I do going into
race with this horse,” Albertrani said. “Not knowing what the outcome’s
going to be, I’m just saying my level of confidence in both cases would
be about the same. As it turned out, Bernardini did win, but when you
know your horse is training well and they’re
doing good, you’ve got that confidence that they should perform well.”
Finley, the founder and president of Freedom Child’s co-owner West
Point Thoroughbreds, is also feeling good about the colt’s chances.
is the first time we’ve ever had a buzz horse like this in a real big
race,” Finley said. “I’m very confident. I’ve kind of learned over
the years, why not be confident, even if you’re 15 or 20-1? People get
to fretting, but it’s just great what’s happening. What if we’re not
disappointed? It’d be a pretty cool day.”
* * *
With exercise rider Emerson Chavez up, Kentucky Derby runner-up
Golden Soul galloped 1 ¼ miles on
Belmont Park’s main track Thursday morning.
was fresh, strong, into it,” trainer Dallas Stewart said. “His energy
was good. He came back good, and grazed really good for about an hour.
He’s all set.”
Charles Fipke homebred has just a maiden victory to his credit but has
been competitive in graded stakes. He was sixth, beaten only 2 ¾
in the Grade 2 Risen Star and fourth by 4 ¾ lengths in the Louisiana
Churchill Downs on May 4, he got an inside trip under Robby Albarado
and sailed over the sloppy, sealed surface to finish just 2 ½ lengths
behind winner Orb at odds of 34-1. There is the prospect of another wet
track for Saturday’s
“He’ll handle it fine,” Stewart said. “He handles everything that’s thrown at him; traffic, weather. He’s on his game.”
* * *
Trainer Ken McPeek has run four horses in the Belmont Stakes:
Pineaff (ninth in 1999), 70-1 winner Sarava in 2002 and Atigun (third)
and Unstoppable U (sixth) last year.
This year, McPeek will saddle Frac Daddy, who finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby, but was second at nearly 24-1 in the Arkansas Derby.
McPeek said yesterday that he has developed a routine for this
race he calls the “Belmont Gallop” for preparing runners for the Belmont
“We back up to the quarter-pole, we jog to the wire – of course, that’s where they start the
McPeek explained. “We gallop a full turn and pick it up the last
three-eighths. I think horses thrive on repetition. We’ve done that, and
it’s been successful, so we’re keeping it.
“This isn’t rocket science. You try to get them in the habit of
knowing where to get started. This colt has a lot to learn, but I think
he’s got talent.”
McPeek had high hopes for his first Belmont Stakes runner,
Pineaff, but was badly beaten by Lemon Drop Kid, trained by the late
Scotty Schulhofer, who came up under
the tutelage of the legendary Hall of Famer, John Nerud.
“I took notes from Scotty Schulhofer,” McPeek said. “I ran a
horse I thought had a legitimate chance, [but] who didn’t handle any of
it. I think I learned a real big
lesson that day. I think I overtrained that horse. I think they’ve got
to handle this racetrack.
“They have to have had some experience here, whether physical or
mental. You look back at all the Triple Crown winners; they trained
here a portion of their careers.
Schulhofer, I remember a quote by him. He said, ‘They can either do the
distance or they can’t.’ But he always half-miled his horses into the
race. He never worked them a mile or a mile and an eighth, or even
three-quarters. He just half-miled them. I took
notes from that. When we went with Sarava, we half-miled him into the
race. It was similar.”
Frac Daddy’s three published workouts since the Kentucky Derby all have been at a half-mile, or four furlongs.
* * *
at 30-1 one of the long shots in the Belmont
field, had an easy day on the track two days after his final Belmont
breeze, but continued to please Chip Dutrow, who is assisting trainer
Tony Dutrow in preparing the Frost Giant colt for Saturday’s race.
“He looks good out there,” said Chip Dutrow. “He’s getting over the track well, and everything is fine.”
New York by Andrew Cohen, Giant Finish
began his career facing state-breds at Aqueduct Racetrack, then finished
second in the John Battaglia Memorial and third in the Grade 3 Spiral,
both over the artificial surface at
Park. Sent off at 38-1, he beat almost half the field in the Kentucky Derby when 10th over a sloppy, sealed track.
“I think he’s the kind of horse who can run on anything,” said Dutrow.