Belmont 2023: National Treasure has 1st work on Big Sandy

Belmont 2023: National Treasure has 1st work on Big Sandy
Photo: Susie Raisher / NYRA

Preakness winner National Treasure worked a half-mile solo Tuesday over Big Sandy in preparation for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez up for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, the Quality Road colt was caught by New York Racing Association clockers in a swift opening split of 23 and 2/5 seconds before hitting the wire through a half-mile in 50.62.

Velazquez had National Treasure under a hold down the lane before letting the talented bay gallop out strong.

“I wanted to jog him to the mile pole and start him galloping nice and easy. He got pretty strong on the bridle, so I kept him on the outside and Bob told me when I get to the four and a half, just drop him in and try to go 49,” Velazquez said. “He picked it up pretty quick. I slowed him down as best I could and down the lane, I just held him together. Going past the sixteenth pole, I gave him his head and let him gallop out.”

National Treasure added blinkers for his score in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 20 at Pimlico, which he won in dramatic fashion after a prolonged stretch duel with Grade 1 winner Blazing Sevens to his outside.

Velazquez, who won the Belmont with Rags to Riches in 2007 and Union Rags in 2012, said he expects National Treasure should be able to handle the stretch out to 12 furlongs in the test of the champion June 10 at Belmont Park.

“After the races, he always gallops out really strong. I just hope that he can put it together,” Velazquez said. “The whole thing with him is he gets a little spotty. We put blinkers on him and he's been pretty good with them. Hopefully, he stays like that.”

National Treasure is owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan. Tom Ryan, managing partner of SF Racing, was on hand to watch the breeze and said Velazquez was pleased with the work.

“He said he was getting over the track very well, which is most important,” Ryan said. “He said that it’s good to get a horse acclimated to the track.”

National Treasure has a record of 6: 2-1-2 for purse earnings of more than $1.3 million. He has raced at four tracks, graduating on debut in September at Del Mar before finishing second in the American Pharoah (G1) in October at Santa Anita, third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November at Keeneland, and third in the Sham (G3) in January at Santa Anita. He entered the Preakness from a troubled fourth-place finish in the nine-furlong Santa Anita Derby (G1) in April.

Ryan said the well-traveled horse has gained valuable experience.

“He went from Del Mar to Santa Anita to Keeneland and back,” Ryan said. “He got that early education we wanted him to get of getting on the plane and going to Kentucky with a big crowd. He’s experienced that now on a number of days on Breeders’ Cup to Preakness to this.”

Ryan said a win in the Belmont Stakes would be significant as he looks to build National Treasure’s resume as a potential stallion.

“I think it’s very important,” Ryan said. “A race like the Belmont is very important when pairing it with a race like the Preakness. I think a standalone Belmont definitely has value on a resume, but when you put two Classics on your resume, it’s pretty hard to top isn’t it?”

National Treasure is the first stakes winner produced from the Medaglia d’Oro mare Treasure and was purchased for $500,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale.

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