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Stealcase Will Skip Belmont Stakes

John Oxley’s Stealcase, third in The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (Grade III) in his most recent start, will skip the June 9 Belmont Stakes (GI), the third jewel of the Triple Crown, according to trainer Mark Casse.


“He’s not going to run in the Belmont,” Casse said. “We’re going to point for the Matt Winn (GIII at Churchill Downs on June 16).”


The Casse barn has always thought highly of Stealcase, who was purchased for $320,000 as a 2-year-old in training.


“We want to get him some confidence and it looks like the Belmont is going to come up pretty tough,” Casse said.


Stealcase, who breezed five furlongs on the fast main track at Churchill Downs on Thursday in 1:02.40 under Shaun Bridgmohan, would be making his fourth consecutive start in a Grade III in the Matt Winn, but Casse thinks he will prove himself to be a Grade I-caliber horse.


“We’re going to aim for the Travers (GI),” Casse said.


The $1 million Travers, the so-called “Midsummer Derby,” will be run at Saratoga on August 25.


While Stealcase was ruled out of Belmont contention Thursday, Brereton Jones’ homebred Mark Valeski was all but ruled out of the 1 ½-mile classic.  


“He’s probably not going to the Belmont,” trainer Larry Jones said. “It’d be really strange if we went. I’d say there’s about a 0.44% chance we run.”


Mark Valeski finished second in both the Risen Star (GII) and Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds earlier this year. The bay son of Proud Citizen was being pointed to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) at Churchill Downs, but he was declared from the race on the Tuesday prior to the Run for the Roses.


After being taken out of consideration for the Derby, Jones pointed Mark Valeski to the Peter Pan (GII) at Belmont Park. The decision to skip the Derby and point for the Peter Pan worked out well for Mark Valeski, who won the race on May 12 by 1 ¼ lengths.


“I don’t think he needs a (a lot of time off), but I don’t want to turn him around and run him again so quickly and then knock him out for the summer,” Jones said. “The number one priority for us now is the Travers.”


With Mark Valeski highly doubtful for the Belmont, jockey Rosie Napravnik, who was aboard the colt in his prior three starts, has picked up the mount MeB Racing Stables LLC’s Five Sixteen.



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