Laurel Park-based Doppelgänger, who became a Grade 1 winner with his upset triumph in the Carter Handicap on April 8 at Aqueduct, continues to train forward for an anticipated next start in the Met Mile (G1) on June 10 at Belmont Park.
Doppelgänger, who shares several common owners with 148th Preakness winner National Treasure, has breezed three times at Laurel since the seven-furlong Carter, including a bullet five furlongs in 1:01.6 on Wednesday, the fastest of 12 horses at the distance.
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“Since the Carter, he’s quite sharp,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “He thinks he’s a bear. Each race, each win, he seems to get higher on himself.”
Previously trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, 4-year-old Doppelgänger ran second in the 2022 San Felipe (G2) and fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and went to the sidelines after a fourth in the Los Alamitos Derby in July. He put together three consecutive wins for Russell, including Jan. 27 and Feb. 24 allowances at Laurel going 1 1/16 miles and one mile.
“The time did him some good. We gave him some time, and he’s developed into a nice little horse,” Russell said. “He ran well in the Carter. He got a perfect set-up. I’m not convinced he’s strictly one turn. That’s not at all what I think he’s capable of.”
Russell and owners SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable and Siena Farm nominated and gave some consideration to the Pimlico Special (G3) on May 19, contested at the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles, but opted instead to wait for the Met Mile.
“We always thought he could handle two turns. I ran him off the bench two turns in an a-other-than and he handled it well, but there’s a different scenario when you’re talking stakes horses and graded stakes,” Russell said. “You don’t want to go and try him at a mile-and-three-sixteenths and then cut him back 21 days later. We were thinking Special, but if we want(ed) Special. we were going to kill the idea of the Met Mile. If he’s a Grade 1 horse, and he’s going to be a better miler, that’s the way we’ve got to go.”
Doppelgänger provided both Russell and jockey Jevian Toledo with their first career Grade 1 victories in the Carter. Russell’s first graded-stakes win also came at Belmont with Wondrwherecraigis in the 2021 Bold Ruler (G3) with Luis Saez up.
“We need to pick a path and stay with it, and we feel like one turn right now is probably the best way to go,” Russell said. “Yes, it’s going to be tough up there, but as good as he’s doing, we’re going to take a big swing.”