Belmont 2023: National Treasure will breeze Monday for Baffert

Belmont 2023: National Treasure will breeze Monday for Baffert
Photo: Susie Raisher / NYRA

Preakness winner National Treasure is slated to breeze Monday in preparation for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

The Quality Road sophomore added blinkers and made all the running in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 20 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez up, outdueling Blazing Sevens for a narrow head score, with Kentucky Derby winner Mage settling for third.

Baffert said he is hopeful that National Treasure will appreciate the added ground in the 1 1/2-mile test of the champion.

“You never know until they do it,” Baffert said. “He handled the Preakness distance and it wasn't a problem for him. We're all in the same boat. None of them probably want to go that far, but if they don't go too fast, they can do it.

“I just want him to show up like he did at Pimlico,” added Baffert. “He's never really run a bad race. All his races have been competitive. He's a pretty consistent horse. He's happy and he'll breeze tomorrow and hopefully everything goes well."

Baffert, who previously won the Belmont Stakes with Point Given in 2001 and Triple Crown winners American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018, will be in attendance Saturday for the final leg of the Triple Crown.

National Treasure graduated at first asking in September at Del Mar and hit the board in a trio of stakes in the American Pharoah (G1, second) in October at Santa Anita, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (third) in November at Keeneland and the Sham (G3, third) in January at Santa Anita. He finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in April ahead of his Preakness coup.

Baffert has 2 in Woody Stephens

Graded-stakes placed Arabian Lion rolled to a front-running four-length score last out under Velazquez in the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard.

Although he initially was under consideration for the Belmont Stakes, Baffert decided to point the Justify chestnut to the Woody Stephens (G1), a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores.

“On the turnback, sometimes they run well. We'll send him back to two turns again after that,” Baffert said.

Arabian Lion, who boasts a ledger of 6: 2-2-0 for purse earnings of $217,600, entered the Sir Barton from a pacesetting runner-up effort to First Mission in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington (G3) on April 15 at Keeneland.

Baffert also will enter multiple graded-stakes placed Fort Bragg in the Woody Stephens. The Tapit colt, who was third in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) in December, finished second last out in the Pat Day Mile (G2) a neck back of returning rival General Jim on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs.

“He's still improving and filling out,” Baffert said. “He's maturing and there’s a lot of room to improve.”

Baffert previously won the Woody Stephens with Bayern in 2014 and American Anthem in 2017.

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