Kentucky Derby winner Orb
continues to flourish at his home track, jogging Tuesday morning at 6
a.m. and leaving Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey pleased with
the way the colt is coming into Saturday’s 145th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes.
“I think it’s got to be a lot more comfortable than shipping to
Kentucky or to Maryland; from here, all he has to do is walk from here
[the barn] to there [the track],”
said McGaughey. “He walks through the paddock every morning and trains
over the racetrack every day, which he did as a 2-year-old and
3-year-old, except when we were in
He’s been here for three weeks, and I think it has to be a help not
only mentally but being familiar with the footing as well. He’s done
well here and trained well here.”
Similarly, McGaughey thinks his own familiarity with
Park, and that of jockey Joel Rosario, will be to Orb’s benefit.
“Some jockeys don’t ride here on a regular basis, and they might
not be as familiar with what’s going on,” he said. “When they turn down
that backstretch, they’ve got
a long way to go. A lot of them, I think, will move a little early.
“As long as I’ve been up here, I understand my surroundings and I understand
Belmont Park,” he added, “and I think
Rosario is going to be the same way.”
The 1 ½-mile
Belmont is at a distance which McGaughey feels is within Orb’s scope.
“He’s by Malibu Moon, who’s by A.P. Indy, who would run a
distance of ground and gets horses who run a distance of ground, and
he’s out of a deep female family that’s
all bred for go long on the dirt,” he said. “He’ll run all day, and I
don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”
As many as 15 will line up for the
Belmont. In addition to Orb and Preakness winner
Oxbow, likely for Wednesday’s post position draw are
Revolutionary, Unlimited Budget,
Overanalyze, Palace Malice,
Midnight Taboo, Will Take Charge,
Freedom Child, Vyjack,
Incognito, Always in a Tiz,
Frac Daddy, Golden Seal, and
Giant Finish. Frac Daddy and Golden Seal were expected to arrive at
* * *
Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner
Oxbow led the D. Wayne Lukas-trained contingent off the van early Monday evening at
Park, where they will be stabled at the barn of trainer Barclay Tagg. Joining Oxbow were Rebel Stakes winner
Will Take Charge, who is also bound for the Belmont Stakes, as well as
Optimizer, who will compete in the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan.
“Everything was fine. No problems,” Lukas said of the arrival.
“They trained well, had good energy this morning. Everything was in good
order. They just jogged. They’ll
gallop this week. Everything’s done now. Just keep them happy.”
On Oxbow, Lukas said, “He’s a tough little horse. The Preakness
took nothing out of him. He’s full of himself. He’ll be tough again.”
* * *
Todd Pletcher’s Belmont Stakes quintet had a quiet morning as they walked the shedrow at
“They all went to the gate yesterday, so there wasn’t a lot of action around here,”
said Michael McCarthy, Pletcher’s assistant.
Late Monday afternoon, Pletcher announced that the filly
Unlimited Budget and the lightly raced
Midnight Taboo – both owned by Mike Repole – would join Dogwood Stable’s
Palace Malice, WinStar Farm’s Revolutionary and Repole’s
Overanalyze in the race.
“Overanalyze is a Grade 1 winner, and he beat Oxbow by 5 ¼
lengths in the Arkansas Derby,” said Repole. “He ran a sneaky-good race
in the Kentucky Derby where he was
shuffled back but ran on, and I don’t think he loved the track.”
“I think this one year where I think the fillies are as good as
the boys,” the owner said of his decision to run Unlimited Budget in the
“She ran a good race when she was third in the Kentucky Oaks, and two
fillies out of that race, Midnight Lucky and Close Hatches, came back to
run 1-2 in the Acorn. Unlimited Budget is
a large filly, and when the 15 horses come out you’ll think she’s one
of the colts. She also has a good mind for a mile and a half where
“Midnight Taboo was talented as a 2-year-old before he went back
to the farm,” the owner added. “He won his first race back, and he was a
really good second in his next
race, a race he was never going to win. I think he would have won the
Easy Goer [on the
Belmont undercard], but you get one chance in your life to run in the Belmont Stakes, and he’s getting his chance.”
Unlimited Budget will have Rosie Napravnik aboard while Garrett
Gomez will ride Midnight Taboo. Already confirmed were Javier Castellano
aboard Revolutionary, Hall of
Famer John Velazquez on Overanalyze, and Hall of Famer Mike Smith
aboard Palace Malice, whose blinkers will come off for the
Pletcher, who saddled five horses in the Kentucky Derby, won the
Belmont in 2007 with the filly Rags to Riches, who was the first of her sex to win the race since Tanya in 1905.
* * *
Rosie Napravnik, who rode Five Sixteen to a fifth-place finish in last year’s
Belmont, looks to make history Saturday as she teams with the filly
Unlimited Budget for this year’s “Test of the Champion.”
Napravnik, who was aboard Mylute in the Kentucky Derby (5th) and Preakness (3rd), will be the first woman to ride in all three legs of the Triple
Crown in the same year. She is bidding to join Julie Krone, who won the 1993
Belmont with Colonial Affair, as the only woman to win a Triple Crown race.
Only 22 fillies have run in the race; of them, three have
emerged the victor: Ruthless, who won the first Belmont in 1867, Tanya
(1905) and Rags to Riches (2007).
“It’s exciting,” said Napravnik of the possibility of a woman jockey winning the
Belmont aboard a filly. “I think it’s great to bring some attention to the sport.”
Napravnik, who rode Unlimited Budget to a 3 ¾-length victory in
the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on February 23 at the Fair Grounds,
is looking forward to being reunited
with the Street Sense filly.
“She’s a big, strong filly, and obviously she’s been training
well,” said Napravnik of the Repole Stable color-bearer, who is 4-0-1
from five starts, with her only loss
a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. “With a big field,
it’s going to be a tough race for everyone. But I don’t think [she will
be intimidated] – she looks more like a colt. Plus, she can sit close to
the pace, or close into it.”
* * *
Belmont Stakes contender
Freedom Child had a quiet morning on Tuesday, going out shortly after 7 for what trainer Tom Albertrani called a routine gallop.
was just an uneventful jog and gallop, his normal routine,” Albertrani
said. “He jogged back to the three-quarter pole, turned around and
galloped a mile and a half. It went well. He couldn’t be better.”
chestnut son of Malibu Moon, Freedom Child is coming off a command
performance in winning the Grade 2 Peter Pan on May 11, leading from
to wire to win by 13 ¾ lengths under jockey Luis Saez, who will be back
aboard for Saturday’s Belmont.
couldn’t be more happy with the horse right now,” Albertrani said.
“He’s in great condition, and he’s giving us all the right signals. Now,
we just have to lead him over there.”
Albertrani said he wasn’t concerned about the prospect of having 15 horses for the
which equals the largest field in the race’s 145-year history, set in
1983. The last time as many as 14 went to the post was 1996.
not going to bother us,” he said. “We’re not going to be looking at
more than two or three in front of us. The rest will hopefully be behind
* * *
Multiple graded stakes winner
Vyjack put in a strong
final tune-up for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes this morning, breezing five
furlongs in 59.00 seconds, handily, according to NYRA clockers.
The 3-year-old Into Mischief gelding was aggressively hand-ridden down the stretch of
Belmont’s main track by trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who pulled Vyjack up shortly after crossing the wire.
just wanted him to work the right way, and he did what we asked him to
do,” Rodriguez said. “I was happy with the way he did it, nice and
comfortable. He looked good, and he seemed happy. He looks like he came
back good, not blowing or anything. Beautiful.”
rain on Monday forced Rodriguez to postpone Vyjack’s final breeze until
Tuesday, and it was delayed further after the trainer got caught
in morning traffic on the way to Belmont from his base at Aqueduct, not stepping on the track until 9:24 a.m.
got very, very good energy,” Rodriguez said. “Yesterday, we tried to
graze him a little bit and he was bucking and kicking. He’s been very
happy. Maybe he likes Belmont. I hope so.”
Vyjack most recently finished 18th in the Kentucky Derby.
looked like he handled the track better than Churchill,” Rodriguez
said. “He looked a lot more smooth. Over there, he changed leads a
times, but that track was a little hard for him. He’s doing great. Now,
we have to hope he brings his ‘A’ game.”
winner of his first four career starts, including the Grade 2 Jerome
and Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct, Vyjack will be ridden for the first time
in the Belmont by jockey Julien Leparoux.
* * *
Giant Finish, who was 10th in the Kentucky Derby,
turned in his final serious work for the Belmont Stakes this
morning, breezing a half-mile on the main track under Hall of Fame
jockey Edgar Prado, who will be aboard for Saturday’s race.
The chestnut colt, who arrived from the
Center and had Monday’s scheduled work
postponed, went out shortly after the renovation break at 8:45 and was
caught in 49.04 by NYRA clockers.
“He did it nice and easy to the pole, and I let him out a little
bit,” said Prado of the Tony Dutrow-trained colt. “He got over the
track well and finished up good.
It was really a maintenance work.”
Prado, who won the inaugural running of the $500,000 Penn Mile on Saturday, is a two-time winner of the
Belmont, taking the 2002 edition with Sarava and the 2004 running with Birdstone.
* * *
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will match all
funds donated on track Saturday, Belmont Stakes Day, to the American Red
Cross and the Thoroughbred Racing
Association of Oklahoma for victims of the massive tornado that struck
Moore, Okla. on May 20. Dozens of people were killed by the twister, which had winds between 200 and 300 mph.
Taking a direct hit from the F5 tornado was the 106-acre Orr
Family Farm, also known as Celestial Acres. The training facility was
said to be filled with thoroughbreds
and quarter horses stabled for the meet in progress at Remington
Park. More than 75 horses were believed killed by the tornado.
Donations will be accepted at a designated table located on the first floor of the
Park grandstand. For more information please visit
www.redcross.org or www.traoracing.com.