“Because we’re here at Santa Anita I think you have to support the track you stable at,” Shirreffs said in a phone conversation from southern California.
Shirreffs had hoped that his highly regarded San Felipe Stakes (G2) runner-up would be able to race in both Grade 1 events. Apparently so did bettors who helped make Honor A. P. a 16-1 shot in overseas futures for the Belmont.
Instead, Honor A. P. will stay home and get an apparent rematch against San Felipe Stakes winner Authentic on June 6.
A native of Kansas who grew up on Long Island, Shirreffs said that he was a “very sad New Yorker” after seeing the Belmont shortened from 1 1/2 to 1 1/8 miles for its June 20 renewal. That means it will be run around only one turn for the first time in 100 years.
Coming 2 1/2 months ahead of the Kentucky Derby and 3 1/2 ahead of the Preakness, the Belmont will also lead off the Triple Crown for the first time.
“How did New York let one of the Triple Crown jewels become a steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby?” Shirreffs asked. “It’s hard to fathom. The Belmont Stakes is an important race by itself at a mile-and-a-half. The race still comes in June, the time it comes every year. Personally I don’t understand why it’s not a mile-and-a-half. It’s still their signature race.”
By staying in June the Belmont has been designated a Derby points prep, awarding a record 150 points to the winner and making it a win-and-you’re in for Churchill Downs on Sept. 5. Major prep winners Charlatan, Nadal and Tiz The Law were made the early 7-2 favorites.
The Santa Anita Derby, originally scheduled for April, maintained its 100-40-20-10 points distribution to its top-four finishers for the June date. Nominations close May 28.
Ron Flatter has covered horse racing around the world for more than 30 years. Currently based in Nevada and working for the Vegas Stats & Information Network, he is host of the weekly Ron Flatter Racing Pod and on Twitter @ronflatter.