Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Aaron Haggart
General a Rod is squeezing his way into the already crowded starting gate for Saturday's 146th running of The Belmont Stakes. A late purchase by Starlight Racing and co-owned by Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg, General a Rod impressed trainer Mike Maker enough with a five furlong breeze in 1:00.20 this morning at Belmont Park.
"(General a Rod) showed more in the Preakness of what his talents and capabilities are because if he didn't get checked again by Ria Antonia, the Filly, I really think he would have been in a dog fight for the win" Lucarelli said.
The original plan was to have General a Rod try turf for the first time later this summer, but he came out of the Preakness well and according to his connections, is eager to get back on the track.
"He is bred very well for the turf on top and on bottom" Lucarelli continued. "But he is just doing so well and his energy level is so high that you kind of want to let them dictate to you what they want to do."
Starlight Racing is hoping General a Rod can help ease the disappoint of losing Intense Holiday to injury. The Risen Star winner suffered a condylar fracture in his right foreleg will training for the June 7th Belmont Stakes and was forced to retire.
"Naturally, I'm half way down to Belmont that morning, when I get the call that the horse had to be vanned off the track," Lucarelli explained.
"It's a bitter pill to swallow, but it is something that you have to accept in this business, you just hope you don't get too many of those types of calls."
General a Rod joins Ride on Curlin and Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome as the only three colts to contest all three legs of the Triple Crown. General a Rod finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby after a troubled trip. He finished fourth in the Preakness two weeks later in Baltimore.
Lucarelli would support a change to the Triple Crown landscape by adding more time between the races. "I think the breed of the horses is much different now" he said.
Trying to take down the best three-year-old in the country right now in California Chrome is no easy task as trainer Alan Sherman should have the Derby and Preakness winner ready for history. But Lucarelli says there is no reason to crown Chrome just yet.
"Distance is the biggest question" Lucarelli said. "From betting standpoint, you're asking a horse to do something it's never done before, and that's a problem."
Following the Belmont Stakes, Lucarelli will focus his attention on Saratoga and the chance to create more fans in the Capital Region. He feels he has the stable to do it.
"I would love to win the Travers or the Alabama. I would love to do something for this area, to get everybody all jacked up so they can feel a part of it."
~Written by Jim Gazzale