Todd Pletcher Preps for Belmont Stakes

The 2017 Triple Crown gamut is close to completion, with only the Belmont Stakes (G1) left on the docket. Trainer Todd Pletcher has a couple of charges he will most likely send in an attempt to snag the last slice of the Triple Crown pie in Tapwrit and Patch. He sent them both out to work on May 27.

Patch is coming off a 14th place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and did not run in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Tapwrit, the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner, also skipped out on the Preakness after finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher, as we know, trained Always Dreaming to a win in the Kentucky Derby, but they finished eighth in the Preakness.

During the 9:30 AM work, Tapwrit was timed running five furlongs in 1:02.25 under jockey Jose Ortiz. Patch worked out earlier than Tapwrit, hitting the track at 7:45 AM with jockey John Velazquez, who rode Always Dreaming to Kentucky Derby glory last month. They ran four furlongs in :50.24.

“I thought Tapwrit worked well; he’s not an overzealous workhorse but we got a good solid five-eighths into him on what I’d describe as a relatively slow training track,” said Pletcher. “I thought it served its purpose and he seemed to work as he normally does. (Patch) worked fine. Neither horse are ones that overachieve in the mornings but they have that solid, grinding style that could suit the Belmont.”

Tapwrit is definite to start in the Belmont Stakes, according to Pletcher, but he has yet to make a decision on Patch.

Creator Wins Belmont Stakes in Photo Finish

Creator Closes From the Clouds to Win Belmont by a Nose

The play of the day was on the gray colt in the 148th Belmont Stakes Saturday, as Creator ‘closed from the clouds’ to win a photo finish over Destin. Actually, three gray horses finished 1-2-3 with Lani also closing hard for third. But it was trainer Steve Asmussen’s colt Creator, the son of Tapit, who split rivals in midlane to make steady progress on the leader Destin and nip him by a nose in Creator Belmont Nose 3 picthe final jump at the finish. It was the fourth time the Belmont was decided by a nose — the closest possible margin of victory.

“Today was perfect for us by inches,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who will be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame this summer at Saratoga. “Being the victor of the Belmont Stakes will look good on that plaque.”

Destin’s trainer Todd Pletcher called it a “tough beat” after Destin was the lone horse among the leaders to hold up down the stretch in the grueling 1.5 mile Belmont. He shook free and emerged with the lead at the eighth pole and dug in with determination before getting nipped at the finish line.

On a hot and sticky day at Belmont Park with the track rated fast, Creator, ridden by new jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., was sent off at 16-1 in the Belmont after finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby and skipping the Preakness. With Ortiz urging him on Creator made his move into contention as they turned for home and then squeezed and split through horses before chasing down Destin in the final strides.

Creator returned $34.80, $14.60 and $9.40. Destin returned $9.40 and $6.20 and Lani paid $6.60. The $2 exact paid $269 and the $2 trifeca hit for $2,751.

The two race day favorites, Exaggerator at 7-5 and Suddenbreakingnews at 5-1 did not factor finishing 11th and 9th respectively.

“By the time we got to the eight pole, he was stepping on his tongue,” said Exaggerator’s jockey Kent Desormeaux, who said neither the track surface nor the traffic could be blamed. “I couldn’t have dreamt of a smoother ride.”

On one of racing’s biggest race days in the biggest race, Creator closed from the clouds and won the Belmont Stakes just before a heavy rainstorm broke over the track, bringing the Triple Crown season to a soggy close.


Met Mile a Magnificent Race

Met Mile Field Loaded for Saturday’s Super Stakes Card at Belmont

A huge weekend of racing is set for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, and the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap is loaded with a talented field. The one-turn ‘Met Mile’ event on the main track is part of a nine graded stakes race card Saturday, June 11 that includes the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

The ‘Met Mile’ is also a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup dirt mile November 5 at Santa Anita.

Heading the strong 13-horse field as favorite is Frosted, who finished second in last year’s Belmont Stakes following a fourth in the Kentucky Derby and a win in the Wood Memorial. Frosted won this year’s Al Maktoum Challenge in Dubai at Meydan in February. He’s one of two Grade I winners in the field along with Noble Bird, who wired the field by 11-lengths in winning the Grade 3 Pimlico Special May 20. The son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone seems to be “putting it all together” says his Belmont-based assistant trainer Randi Melton.

“Frosted couldn’t be doing any better. This race could be a little short for him, but we’re excited about it and I think there will be a lot of pace,” said trainer Kairan McLaughlin.

Also running for McLaughlin is Tamarkuz, who finished fourth in last year’s Met Mile and has not won since March, 2015 in the Godolphin Mile at Meydan.  Marking is getting respect in the betting market for McLaughlin despite not yet winning a stakes race and moving up in class. Ami’s Flatter is 2-for-3 this year after winning the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland in April, but is also facing his strongest test yet.

Anchor Down will try to make it two in a row for trainer Todd Pletcher after winning a Grade II race here May 7. Also contending for Pletcher is Stanford and Blofeld, who “are horses that can adapt to different running styles depending upon the pace of the race.” Blofeld closed late at 9-1 odds to beat Stanford in the Gulfstream Park Handicap March 5. Stanford has improved as a 4-year old and won the Charlestown Classic wire-to-wire at 3-1 odds over favorite Donworth, who finished third. Donworth is a very big horse with tactical speed and now offered at a much bigger price.

Another long shot to keep an eye on is highly-rated and locally-stabled Upstart, who has nearly $1.5 million in earnings and is training very well with blinkers added and should be stalking the leaders. He won the Razorback Stakes (G3) in March and then had a disappointing trip in the Oaklawn Handicap in April, Finishing fifth just behind Blofeld.  

Met Mile, Race 9, Saturday, June 11 at Belmont Park

Post Position, Rider and Odds:

  1. El Kabeir, Manny Franco, 30-1
  2. Blofeld, John Velazquez, 10-1
  3. Donworth, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1
  4. Noble Bird, Julien Leparoux, 9-2
  5. Frosted, Joel Rosario, 7-2
  6. Upstart, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 20-1
  7. Stanford, Javier Castellano, 5-1
  8. Ami’s Flatter, Martin Garcia, 6-1
  9. Sloane Avenue, Florent Guroux, 15-1
  10. Tamarkuz, Luis Saez, 20-1
  11. Calbulator, Junior Alvarado, 10-1
  12. Anchor Down, Jose Ortiz, 12-1
  13. Marking, Jose Lezcano, 8-1



Exaggerator arriving at Belmont Stakes for the final leg of the Triple Crown

Exaggerator Arrives for Final Leg of the Triple Crown

Exaggerator arrived at Belmont Park on Sunday, May 29th to compete in the final leg of the Triple Crown. The small journey, which spans about 300 miles, was manned by a four-person crew and was reportedly to be uneventful. No news is good news.

Driven by Julie Clark, assistant trainer to Keith Desormeaux, Exaggerator arrived safely and was taken to Barn 29 by his groom, Victor Vargas. He will be stationed there for the next two weeks as he preps for the Belmont Stakes on June 11th. As expected, he will be favored when the $1.5 million race kicks off.

For now, all we wanted to see was Exaggerator being his old self upon touching down at the New York track. Like Nyquist, the Preakness Stakes winner is undergoing a light training schedule that is intended to keep him fresh for the final leg of the Triple Crown. The Belmont Stakes is a 1 1/2 mile gauntlet, meant to test the mettle of the best horses in the three-year old class. That’s why it’s called the Test of the Champion.

So far, everything’s up to par. “That is very normal for him,” Clark noted. “They usually walk two days after a race and then walk on Thursdays and Sundays, and then we fit in another walk day—just to be make it more exciting for the hotwalkers.”

“The first day back (to train on May 24), he was actually pretty strong, and the second time, (May 28), he was very relaxed,” she went on. “We have a different rider, Peedy [Landry], who just has a way of putting the horses to sleep and we love that. He went on a loose rein and was happy to go whatever speed Peedy wanted him to, without trying to dictate.”

The oddsmakers and horse players around the country will be pulling for the horse, hoping that Exaggerator arrives at the finish line first in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Governor Malibu

Who Is Governor Malibu?

There is currently a ten-horse field for the 2016 Belmont Stakes that is largely made of up familiar faces from both the derby trail and the first two legs of the Triple Crown. One new shooter, however, has emerged and that’s Governor Malibu. So who exactly is this horse?

Governor Malibu is the son of Malibu Moon out of Akilana. He is trained by Chris Clement, who won the 2014 Belmont Stakes with Tonalist. The three-year old has posted a record of 2-4-1 in seven races, most recently placing second at the Peter Pan Stakes in an effort that inspired Clement to submit his name for the Belmont Stakes. This is presumably because both are run on the same track.

“When you run so well in the Peter Pan, I had to consider the Belmont Stakes,” Clement stated. “He has never stopped stepping up. We came from a New York-bred stakes in the winter to the [Federico Tesio], which he won but was disqualified. We ran a really good race in the Peter Pan, finishing well all the way to the wire.”

Clement went on to admit that the Belmont Stakes are a rather formidable challenge for Governor Malibu but was adamant in giving the horse a chance. “He wants to go long on dirt, he trains at Belmont, and he belongs to people who really enjoy New York racing. It is ambitious, but I think he deserves a shot at it.”

It’s obvious that the still unproven Governor Malibu will enter the race as a longshot, but it’s not unheard of for those types of bets to come through. D’Tara won at 38-1 back in 2008, while Ruler on Ice claimed the title at 20/1 in 2011. Most recently, Palice Malice won for Todd Pletcher in 2013 at 15/1. While a new shooter in the Triple Crown, it’s important to remember that Governor Malibu will be just one month removed from the Peter Pan Stakes. He is in competition shape. Whether that means it’s enough to challenge a strong three-year old class remains to be seen.


Suddenbreakingnews Bound for Belmont

Strong Closer Suddenbreakingnews One to Watch in Belmont Stakes

Suddenbreakingnews is bound for the Belmont and will be fresh and ready to run when he breaks from the gate in the grueling 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes June 11.

The hard-charging fifth place Kentucky Derby finisher worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 May 23 in his first workout since the Derby. His running style and closing kick makes him one to watch when he saddles up for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes with jockey Luis Quinonez aboard.

“It looks like with the way he ran in the Derby and with his pedigree the mile-and-a-half distance should suit him well,” trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said. “It’s one of the few mile-and-a-half races we have left in America so I think we need to go run in it. Pace is always an issue and we’ll have to see how that shapes up, but he can go a mile-and-a-half so we’ll do what we can do.”

Suddenbreakingnews finished second in the strong Arkansas Derby April 9 and has three wins and four places in nine career starts. His great-grandsire Seattle Slew won the 1977 Triple Crown. His two grandsires, A.P. Indy and Afleet Alex were both deprived of a Derby victory most people felt was theirs for the taking.

Suddenbreakingnews was unable to make front page news in the 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby despite his strong late kick. He was jammed up after the start and steadied early, but finished with a late burst after weaving through traffic to get fifth place. He’s a dead one-run closer, and he will join Exaggerator, Brody’s Cause and Cherry Wine as strong closers looking to cash in big in the Belmont. Suddenbreakingnews was farthest wide for the drive in the 1 1/8 mile Arkansas Derby, but closed hard and fast from seventh place in the stretch to finish second to Creator. The added Belmont distance to 1 ½ miles should be to his liking in a race that could become a war of attrition late.

Suddenbreakingnews is a classy racehorse with an explosive turn of foot out-that can out-close anyone down the stretch with a powerhouse of a move that has him flying at the end of every one of his races. His pedigree and past performances could help him prevail knowing he’s perhaps best prepared and able to get the added distance.

The big day of racing at Belmont June 11 will feature nine stakes races highlighted by the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

Belmont Stakes field led by Exaggerator

Belmont Stakes Field Begins To Take Shape

The biggest news coming out of thoroughbred racing this week is the loss of Nyquist on the Triple Crown circuit. The Reddam Racing champion has come down with a low grade fever, and trainer Doug O’Neill has removed him from consideration for the final leg of the classics series, cutting the Belmont Stakes field down by at least viable contender.

“He is officially out,” the trainer stated matter of factly. “Right about the time we got his blood work back this morning, which showed an elevated white blood count, his temperature went back up. We just have to get strong with the antibiotics and get him right. He’s under the weather now, which we all get once in a while. Thank God it’s nothing leg-related. We’ll live to fight another day.”

The rest of the Belmont Stakes field is likely to feature just three entrants from the Preakness Stakes. Exaggerator and Cherry Wine, who finished in the top two positions, are slated as probable. The certifiably insane and awesome Lani out of Japan is also scheduled to run in the Belmont after a 5th place finish at Pimlico last weekend. I love that weird horse.

Four runners from the Kentucky Derby are also likely for the Belmont Stakes field after skipping out on the Preakness Stakes. Coincidentally, these are also the horses that finished 5th thru 8 at Churchill Downs a few weeks ago. These include Suddenbreakingnews, Destin, Brody’s Cause and Mo Tom who placed just out of the top-four in that order.

While many other new shooters will probably declare for the Test of the Champion, only one has been announced so far. Governor Malibu enters the fray with a record of 2-3-1 in six races. He recently placed second at the Peter Pan Stakes, and holds a lone stakes victory from the Gander Stakes. The Christopher Clement trainee likely won’t have much support at the window compared to rest of the Belmont Stakes field.