The Triple Crown trail comes to an end at Belmont Park
on Saturday, June 5, with the 142nd running of the Grade 1, $1
million Belmont Stakes, which is expected to draw several contenders from the
Kentucky Derby and Preakness as well as a number of 3-year-olds just rounding
into top form.
First Dude, runner-up to Lookin At Lucky in Saturday’s
Grade 1 Preakness, is among the horses who will target the 1 ½-mile Belmont,
trainer Dale Romans said Sunday morning.
“I think he’s going to move forward again,” Romans said. “The
mile and a half suits him and we’re excited to go up there.”
First Dude, owned by Donald R. Dizney, would be the second Belmont
starter for Romans, who finished third when he saddled Nolan’s Cat in the 2005
edition of the race.
“I think it’s going to end up being a pretty good field of
horses,” Romans said. “With horses like Ice Box, Fly Down and my horse, it’ll
be a good race.”
Romans referenced the expected Belmont starters for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito;
Robert LaPenta’s Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box, and Richard Pell’s Fly
Down, impressive winner of the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes on May 8 at Belmont Park.
Zito will be trying for his third Belmont Stakes win this
year, having won the race with longshots Birdstone in 2004 and Da’ Tara in
2008, upsetting Triple Crown hopefuls Smarty Jones and Big Brown in their
“Three weeks is an eternity, for horses,” said Zito Sunday
morning. “If all goes well over the next three weeks, we hope to have two solid
contenders, and I think Ice Box will be a legitimate favorite.”
Jackson Bend, third in the Preakness, may get some
time off after the race, but Zito did not entirely rule out the Belmont
for the son of Hear No Evil, who is owned by LaPenta and Fred Brei.
“I never say never, but I doubt it,” Zito said. ‘I think he
needs a rest. But you never know with him, he’s very, very, very tough. He
wants to fight all the time.”
As well, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, having won his
fifth Preakness with Lookin At Lucky, could be going for his second Belmont
Stakes victory with Kuehne Racing’s Grade 3 Lone Star Derby winner Game On
Baffert, whose Silver Charm, Real Quiet and War Emblem were
denied Triple Crowns in the 1997, 1998 and 2002 Belmonts,
won the race in 2001 with Point Given.
“I like the Belmont,”
he said Sunday morning before shipping Lookin At Lucky back to California,
where he will rest up for a potential summer campaign on the East Coast. “It’s
a long, tough race. When I ran my other horses for the Triple Crown, I had to
give them a break. It’s tough on them.”
Baffert’s most recent Belmont
starter was Bob and John, who finished eighth in 2006.
Should both First Dude and Game On Dude go onto the Belmont, Baffert said the race could shape up
as a “Battle
of the Dudes.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who sent out both WinStar Farm’s
Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Dogwood Stable’s Derby Trial runner-up
Aikenite in Saturday’s Preakness, said neither horse would run in the Belmont
Stakes. Super Saver faded to finish eighth in the Preakness, while Aikenite was
“As I said after the race, there’s nothing more that I would
have loved to have done than to come back to Belmont with a chance at the
Triple Crown, but we are so happy with the way he ran in the Derby and so
thankful about that, that it would be hard to be disappointed about anything he
does from this point on,” he said.
Pletcher has not ruled out going for his second Belmont
Stakes victory with the filly Devil May Care, owned by Glencrest Farm.
The trainer won his first Classic in 2007 with Rags to Riches, who became the
first of her sex to win the Belmont
in 102 years.
“I have not decided on her, but I would say she’s more
likely for the [Grade 1] Mother Goose [June 26 at Belmont Park],”
Both Super Saver and Aikenite returned to Pletcher’s Belmont Park
barn on Sunday morning, arriving by van just after 10:30 a.m.
“They just arrived, but both seem to have shipped in well,”
said assistant trainer Jonathan Thomas.
With his sights set on the Belmont Stakes, Grade 1 Toyota
Blue Grass winner Stately Victor earned a bullet for his 1:00.20
five-furlong breeze at the Churchill Downs Trackside Training Center
on Saturday, his first published workout since finishing eighth in the Grade 1
“He had a little bit of trouble, but it wasn’t too bad,”
trainer Mike Maker said of Stately Victor’s trip in the Derby.
Dismissed at 40-1 two starts back in the Blue Grass, the son
of Ghostzapper ran away to a 4 ¼-length victory under Alan Garcia.
“He had a clean trip [in the Blue Grass] and a bigger track
he could race on as he had been racing on the turf course at Gulfstream Park,”
said Maker. “He’s a big, imposing horse with a long stride, and hopefully he
can get into a rhythm in the Belmont Stakes.”
Owned by Tom and Jack Conway, Stately Victor was beaten less
than nine lengths in the Derby.
The colt would be the first Belmont Stakes starter for Maker.
Also working Saturday was Fantasy Lane Stable’s Uptowncharlybrown,
a new addition to the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin. Working in company with
another promising McLaughlin 3-year-old, Mill House’s Trappe Shot, Belmont Park
clockers caught Uptowncharlybrown covering four furlongs in 47.82.
“Very nice,” McLaughlin said after the work. “He’s a nice
mover with a big stride. We’re on course for the Belmont.”
Stay Put, most recently an allowance victor in the slop
on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs, will also point for the
Belmont Stakes, trainer Steve Margolis said by phone Sunday.
“We’re still deciding when to ship, and if we’ll fly or van
up,” Margolis said. “Rich [co-owner Richard Bertram] and I definitely want to
set it up so he has a work over the Belmont
track, but he’s doing well and we’re going to take a shot.”
A Kentucky Derby hopeful early in his 3-year-old season,
Stay Put did not collect enough graded stakes earnings to make the starting
gate in the “Run for the Roses” after finishing fifth in the Risen Star and
Louisiana Derby, both Grade 2 prep races run at Fair Grounds. The son of Broken
Vow has won three of seven lifetime starts, all around two turns, but has never
run farther than the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Louisiana Derby.
“I certainly don’t think the distance will be a problem for
him,” Margolis said. “He’s a big, strong colt, he’s training well, and we hope
he’ll continue to move forward. We think he deserves a chance.”
Also pointing to the Belmont
are Make Music for Me, who was fourth in the Kentucky Derby, New
Madrid, who will prep on the grass Thursday at Belmont Park
and Dwyer runner-up Drosselmeyer. Santa Anita Derby and Sham
runner-up Setsuko was listed as possible along with Dublin,
who was fifth in the Preakness, and Bank the Eight, according to New
York Racing Association Stakes Coordinator Andrew Byrnes. Bank the Eight, most
recently the winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on May 1, would
have to be supplemented to the race as he is not Triple Crown-nominated.