Let Em Shine ships in from
with the highest Beyer Speed Figure on the Belmont Stakes card. The
speed merchant, owned by William Peeples and trained by Adam
Kitchingman, spices up a deeply contentious 29th
running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by NYRA Rewards, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds.
After fading in the final furlong last December in his debut,
Let Em Shine turned into a rapid monster, whipping Bob Baffert’s Triple
Crown hopeful Govenor Charlie by
7 ½ lengths at Santa Anita, winning a high-level optional claimer by 4 ¼
lengths, and then moving to the synthetic surface in his most recent
start and winning the Came Home Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park by 4 ¾
lengths, running seven furlongs in 1:21.35
and earning a 109 Beyer Speed Figure.
Only filly Dreaming of Julia, with a 114, has a higher Beyer Speed Figure this year among 3-year-olds.
With that, Peeples began to think forwardly about the Breeders’
Cup Sprint, according to Kitchingman, who will be racing for the first
Park in a training career that dates back to 2002.
The owner made a last-minute decision to run in the Woody Stephens, Kitchingman said.
“We didn’t have any straight 3-year-old races to run in
the trainer explained. “It cost a lot of money to come out here, close
to $30,000 for the weekend. With the plane flight, nominations for the
race, plane tickets for the groom, hotels,
and all that kind of fun stuff. It adds up. We think the horse has a
good chance. He’s training great.”
Let Em Shine, by Songandaprayer, has been galloping over the
Belmont surface for three days, and Kitchingman said, “So far, so good. No problems.”
In the race, he will have to deal with Baffert again, this time
in the form of Zee Bros, who won the $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes on
Preakness Day at Pimlico. The son
of Brother Derek is also a confirmed front-runner like Let Em Shine.
“We’re going to be on the lead,” Kitchingman said. “I just hope
they’re not going too fast. There is no question Baffert’s horse won’t
let this horse get away on the
front. I’d just hate to see a speed duel and the best two horses not
hit the board.”
Kitchingman, a native of
Melbourne, Australia, said he marveled when he got his first look at
Park, and he is delighted he has a horse good enough to have gotten him here.
“I loved the backside, the trees, the barns, the places to
graze. It’s a beautiful racetrack,” he said. “This is by far the best
horse I’ve ever trained. I’m just a
small barn that doesn’t get too many chances.”
* * *
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of
Secretariat’s sweep of the Triple Crown, NYRA has placed a
blue-and-white striped pole inside the main track that
marks 31 lengths, the margin of Secretariat’s victory in the
Belmont, from the finish line.
Using Equibase’s official measurement of one length (8 feet, 2
inches), NYRA erected the marker 253 feet, 2 inches away from the finish
line. The pole shows that Secretariat
won the Belmont Stakes by more than three-quarters of a sixteenth of a
Track announcer Tom Durkin developed the idea for the monument
and said the inspiration goes all the way back to 2004 when Smarty Jones
was attempting to win all three
legs of the Triple Crown.
“When Smarty Jones was running in the Belmont Stakes I thought
he might possibly win by as much as Secretariat,” said Durkin. “I did a
stand-up [interview] on NBC and
went to the maintenance people here and got one of those surveying
wheels. I marked off that distance and I put a little red tape mark on
the rail. This year I asked if there could be a monument in recognition
to the greatest effort by a thoroughbred ever.
I think it’s noticeable and people will say, ‘What’s that?’ and others
will tell them, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, wow!’”