Race of the Week 2017

Let Em Shine Spices Up Salty Woody Stephens

Belmont Park

Let Em Shine ships in from California with the highest Beyer Speed Figure on the Belmont Stakes card. The speed merchant, owned by William Peeples and trained by Adam Kitchingman, spices up a deeply contentious 29th running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by NYRA Rewards, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds.


After fading in the final furlong last December in his debut, Let Em Shine turned into a rapid monster, whipping Bob Baffert’s Triple Crown hopeful Govenor Charlie by 7 ½ lengths at Santa Anita, winning a high-level optional claimer by 4 ¼ lengths, and then moving to the synthetic surface in his most recent start and winning the Came Home Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park by 4 ¾ lengths, running seven furlongs in 1:21.35 and earning a 109 Beyer Speed Figure.


Only filly Dreaming of Julia, with a 114, has a higher Beyer Speed Figure this year among 3-year-olds.


With that, Peeples began to think forwardly about the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, according to Kitchingman, who will be racing for the first time at Belmont Park in a training career that dates back to 2002.


The owner made a last-minute decision to run in the Woody Stephens, Kitchingman said.


“We didn’t have any straight 3-year-old races to run in California,” the trainer explained. “It cost a lot of money to come out here, close to $30,000 for the weekend. With the plane flight, nominations for the race, plane tickets for the groom, hotels, and all that kind of fun stuff. It adds up. We think the horse has a good chance. He’s training great.”


Let Em Shine, by Songandaprayer, has been galloping over the Belmont surface for three days, and Kitchingman said, “So far, so good. No problems.”


In the race, he will have to deal with Baffert again, this time in the form of Zee Bros, who won the $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico. The son of Brother Derek is also a confirmed front-runner like Let Em Shine.


“We’re going to be on the lead,” Kitchingman said. “I just hope they’re not going too fast. There is no question Baffert’s horse won’t let this horse get away on the front. I’d just hate to see a speed duel and the best two horses not hit the board.”

Kitchingman, a native of Melbourne, Australia, said he marveled when he got his first look at Belmont Park, and he is delighted he has a horse good enough to have gotten him here.


“I loved the backside, the trees, the barns, the places to graze. It’s a beautiful racetrack,” he said. “This is by far the best horse I’ve ever trained. I’m just a small barn that doesn’t get too many chances.”


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In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s sweep of the Triple Crown, NYRA has placed a blue-and-white striped pole inside the main track that marks 31 lengths, the margin of Secretariat’s victory in the Belmont, from the finish line.


Using Equibase’s official measurement of one length (8 feet, 2 inches), NYRA erected the marker 253 feet, 2 inches away from the finish line. The pole shows that Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by more than three-quarters of a sixteenth of a mile.


Track announcer Tom Durkin developed the idea for the monument and said the inspiration goes all the way back to 2004 when Smarty Jones was attempting to win all three legs of the Triple Crown.


“When Smarty Jones was running in the Belmont Stakes I thought he might possibly win by as much as Secretariat,” said Durkin. “I did a stand-up [interview] on NBC and went to the maintenance people here and got one of those surveying wheels. I marked off that distance and I put a little red tape mark on the rail. This year I asked if there could be a monument in recognition to the greatest effort by a thoroughbred ever. I think it’s noticeable and people will say, ‘What’s that?’ and others will tell them, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, wow!’”




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