After Belmont Stakes morning-line favorite Ice Box
and stablemate Fly Down
schooled in the gate and galloped this morning,
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito was asked if his late closers would be closer to
the pace in Saturday’s 1½-mile race.
“It depends,” said Zito. “Obviously, Ice Box has a great
kick. I don’t want to do anything to compromise his style of running. I’ve seen
that before, changing styles, and it never works. Never, never, never. I hope
he gets in position where he can run his race; that’s all we can hope for. And,
basically, he and Fly Down are the same type of horse.
“I guess everyone is going to pay attention to First Dude,”
he added. “He’s got a good post  because he’ll probably try and gallop out
there. But I wouldn’t change my horses’ styles. I just hope my horses run the
same way they have been.”
As First Dude galloped around Belmont Park’s 1½-mile
oval, trainer Dale Romans did nothing to refute the perception his horse is
going to the front on Saturday.
“We’re definitely going to be on, or close, to the lead,” he
said. “If someone wants to get out of their game and set him down inside of us,
we’ll let him go and sit right off.
“This horse doesn’t have to be on the lead. If they let him
get three-quarters in 1:14 like Seattle Slew, he’ll be tough to catch. I don’t
think there’s anyone in there that wants to sacrifice themselves and get out of
their game and go chase him.”
Interactif will break from the far outside in Saturday’s
Belmont Stakes, which could give his rider Javier Castellano options on where
to place the Wertheimer and Frere homebred in the field of 12.
“It’s a 1½-mile race, and there’s an eighth of a mile run
into the first turn,” his trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We’ll have to secure
some kind of position. On paper, First Dude (post 11) is the speed, so we hope
we can just follow him over. Or maybe we’ll just go to the lead.”
Kiaran McLaughlin coveted Uptowncharlybrown since
seeing the colt win his first two races by a combined 15 lengths at Tampa Bay
Downs. The trainer, however, had no desire to take charge under the subsequent
circumstances — the sudden death of his friend, Alan Seewald, on April 12.
“I had offered to buy the horse through Alan Seewald after
his first two races,” McLaughlin said Friday morning at his Belmont barn. “I thought he might be a good
3-year-old, maybe a Derby
Seewald, the long-time New Jersey-based conditioner, had
purchased Uptowncharlybrown out of an Ocala 2-year-olds in training sale in
April 2009 and run him four times at Tampa, culminating with a close-up
fifth-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby in which the colt was crowded much of
Five days after Seewald died on April 12, Uptowncharlybrown
ran third in an emotional Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, saddled by Seewald’s
assistant trainer, Linda White.
All of Seewald’s horses with Fantasy Lane Stable were turned
over to White, but McLaughlin said a mutual friend of him and the stable’s
manager, Bob Hutt, suggested he call about Uptowncharlybrown.
“Being that I did make an offer on this horse might have
helped me get him,” McLaughlin said.
The connections, however, were even closer: Althea Roy, the
girlfriend of McLaughlin’s assistant, Art Magnuson, is best friends with White
and helped her saddle Uptowncharlybrown at Keeneland.
McLaughlin said he paid close attention to the race, in
which Uptowncharlybrown had a slow start but was closing fast at the finish.
“I liked what I saw,” McLaughlin said. “He was the best
horse making up a lot of ground, flying late. I was in the race with my own
McLaughlin, who won the Belmont in 2006 with Jazil and
finished fourth last year with Charitable Man, said he wished the race wasn’t
his first with Uptowncharlybrown, “so I’d learn a little from a race with him.
But we’re ready to go, and I think we’ll get the distance.”
Trainer Michael Maker sat serenely is his barn office Friday
morning while Tom Conway, the co-owner of his Belmont entry Stately Victor,
relaxed outside, catching some morning sun.
“Everything went according to schedule, and he’s done
everything we’ve asked,” Maker said of the Blue Grass winner’s preparation for
the final leg of the Triple Crown. “You couldn’t ask for more than that.”
Conway owns the colt, a son of Ghostzapper, with his son,
Jack, the Kentucky attorney general who recently won a pretty big race himself
— the Democratic primary in that state May 18 for a U.S. Senate seat.
Tom Conway said he had been in town since Tuesday and
marveled repeatedly at Belmont Park’s beauty and grandeur. “I love it here,” he
Son Jack, however, is yet to make it out to the track. “He’s
in New York raising money,” Tom Conway said.
Alan Garcia rides Stately Victor, 15-1 in the morning line,
and Maker said he has no plans to offer instructions. The jockey first took the
colt’s reins at Keeneland and won the Blue Grass at 40-1. In their next outing,
Garcia and Stately Victor finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby after a bumpy
“Alan knows the horse, and there’s nothing we could tell him
he doesn’t already know,” Maker said.
When Joel Rosario rides Make Music for Me in
Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, it will be the first time the 22-year-old jockey has
competed over Belmont’s expansive 1½-mile main track.
Trainer Alexis Barba is unconcerned.
“This kid is going to be a superstar,” Barba said of
Rosario and Make Music for Me closed from last of 20 to
finish fourth at 30-1 in the Kentucky Derby. On Saturday, Rosario has one other
scheduled mount at Belmont Park, as he is named on Kells Blues in the third
race, a maiden event on the Widener turf course.
Rosario, who rides year-round in Southern California, is
currently third in the jockey standings at Hollywood Park and was the
second-leading rider at Santa Anita during the meet that concluded in April.
Horses rarely race 1½ miles on the dirt, but WinStar racing
manager Elliott Walden – who saddled Victory Gallop to a Belmont Stakes win in
1998 – has been waiting for the opportunity to stretch Drosselmeyer out.
“We’re really excited about the mile and a half,” Walden
said of Drosselmeyer, who is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott. “We wanted to
get past the mile and an eighth threshold for a few months. We were hoping it
was going to happen in the Kentucky Derby, and it didn’t, so we’re real excited
about the Belmont.”
To Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, it’s simple.
“Either you can go that far, or you can’t go that far,” he
said after Belmont contender Game On Dude galloped Friday. “You can’t
get fit in a few days. I just want to keep him happy and fresh.”
Baffert said he is pleased with the way Game On Dude has
progressed in the weeks he’s had him.
“He’s a very laid-back horse. He’s got a good mind. He’s
very plain. But he’s matured since I’ve had him, and, he gets over this track
really well. It only took him one time around to get used to it.”
Belmont long shot Stay Put galloped 1½ miles on the
main track Friday morning in preparation for the Belmont Stakes. Jockey Jamie
Theriot, who has ridden the homebred colt, owned by Bertram, Elaine and Richard
Klein, in each of his seven races, will arrive Saturday morning, trainer Steve
“We will talk tomorrow,” Margolis said. “Everything went
well this morning, and we’re excited and looking forward to it very much. We
haven’t plotted out the strategy, and we’ll see what the weather looks like and
figure out what we want to do.”
Stay Put finished a close-up fifth in his two stakes tries
and comes off an allowance victory at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.
John Sadler, trainer of Dave in Dixie, was scheduled
to arrive in New York at 5 p.m. on Friday.
There is no other race Larry Roman would rather win than the
the owner believes his entrant Spangled Star could have a pedigree edge
over his 11 opponents.
Roman noted how his long shot colt has the highest Tomlinson
pedigree rating (386) for the 1½-mile distance in this year’s Belmont field, but he also knows genetics are
often inexact science.
“My mother was beautiful and my father was handsome, and
look at how I turned out,” quipped Roman.
Spangled Star is by Distorted Humor, the sire of Kentucky
Derby, Preakness, and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Funny Cide. His dam Spangled
won twice going 1 1/8 miles on the turf and is by Kris S., a notable stamina
influence. The horse with the second highest Tomlinson in the field is First
Dude with a 352.
Roman, a graduate of nearby Hofstra University,
will be accompanied by 16 guests on Saturday.