- “Todd Squad” breezes for Belmont Stakes
- Freedom Child posts sharp five-furlong move
- Incognito’s Belmont status still undecided; Saint Vigeur “doubtful” for Belmont Stakes; other Belmont probables
- NYRA offering Facebook drawings for Belmont Stakes, Secretariat gear
A host of Belmont Stakes contenders put in their penultimate works Monday morning for the Grade 1, $1 million race on June 8, with Palace Malice leading trainer Todd Pletcher’s sizeable contingent with an eye-catching five-furlong breeze on the main track in 1:00.24 after the renovation break.
Pletcher, who could have five starters in the 1 ½-mile Belmont, caught the Dogwood Stable color-bearer galloping out a mile in 1:38 3/5. Palace Malice, who was 12th in the Kentucky Derby, finished several lengths ahead of his workmate, Micromanage (1:01.17), who was then withdrawn from consideration for the Belmont by owner Mike Repole.
Repole, who will be represented in the Belmont by Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner Overanalyze (1:00.77) and possibly maiden winner Midnight Taboo and the multiple graded stakes-winning filly Unlimited Budget –the latter two going in company (1:00.68 for each) – said Micromanage instead would be pointed to the Easy Goer on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
“Right now I’d say Overanalyze is 100 percent if everything stays right, Unlimited Budget is 75 percent and Midnight Taboo 60 percent [for the Belmont],” said Repole. “It’s a tough decision. Midnight Taboo has done nothing to say not to run. With Unlimited Budget, do you run against Dreaming of Julia [in the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 22] or do you run against the boys? We’ll do what’s right for the horse.”
Pletcher’s other Belmont hopeful, Revolutionary, the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner who was third in the Kentucky Derby, went out at 6 a.m. and breezed a half-mile in 48.55 under jockey Javier Castellano.
“I thought everyone worked very well,” said Pletcher. “I think Palace Malice worked unbelievably well. To me, it was a monstrous gallop out.
“I thought it was a typical work from Overanalyze [in company with Caixa Eletronica],” he added. “He’s not an overzealous work horse. You kind of have to encourage him a little bit. I think when Johnny encouraged him, he responded well.
“[For Unlimited Budget], it was similar to what we saw at Churchill. She’s a little better when she works on the outside. I thought her work last week was particularly strong. This week wasn’t quite as strong, but I think switching her to the outside next time you’ll see her a little stronger.
“Midnight Taboo continues to train really well,” he went on. “If he gives us another breeze like he did today and last week, I think he has [worked himself into the race]. He’s a horse you can see getting better and better every work and every race.
“[With Revolutionary] right after the Derby, we talked to Elliott [Walden of WinStar Farm] and we decided to skip the Preakness and go to the Belmont,” said the trainer. “My gut reaction was this horse doesn’t need a lot of training, we’ll give him two half-miles and run. Last week, he was doing so well, I contemplated giving him three breezes, but I decided to stick to my original plan. I’m really happy with the way he went this morning. I think he’s maintained his fitness really, really well.”
Pletcher said the jockey situation for the Belmont horses remains somewhat in flux.
“We’re still in the process of firming it up,” he said. “We’ve got Mike Smith to ride Palace Malice, Johnny [Velazquez] is holding the race for [one of ours], we have Javier on Revolutionary, Garrett Gomez is riding one, and we’ll see what Rosie Napravnik’s situation is.”
Napravnik is currently named to ride the Bob Baffert-trained Code West, winner of an allowance race at Pimlico on Preakness Day, in the Belmont.
Freedom Child turned in his first breeze since romping in Belmont Park’s Grade 2 Peter Pan earlier this month, covering five furlongs over the main track Monday morning in 59.87 under exercise rider John Mason.
“I thought he went super,” said Tom Albertrani, who trains the Malibu Moon ridgling for West Point Thoroughbreds, St. Elias Stable, and Spendthrift Farm. “The rider sat there with a nice hold of him and he looked like he was just galloping down the lane. We just wanted to let him go in hand. Typically he can get aggressive when he’s feeling good, so the rider had a nice hold of him early on. It looked like he was just running through the bridle the first three-eighths, and he just gave him a little slack down the lane. He responded well and did it all nice and easy.”
Albertrani said he was considering an easy workout for the ridgling before the June 8 Belmont Stakes.
“This week he’ll just do some light galloping and maybe a real easy work next time or a good strong gallop out. I just don’t want him to do too much on top of the race. Today was a pretty strong work, so we’ll just kind of let him get there.”
In other Belmont Stakes news, Darley Stable’s Incognito worked a half-mile in 50.01 Monday morning and remains under consideration for the 1 ½-mile race.
“He worked well, and Jimmy Bell [President of Darley America] was here, so we’re going to talk about it in the next day or two and see if we give it a shot,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “The main reason we’re even talking about it is that he truly wants a mile and a half and you don’t get many opportunities.”
Also on Monday, trainer Chad Brown proclaimed Peter Pan runner-up Saint Vigeur “doubtful” for the Belmont Stakes after the Smart Strike colt developed a quarter crack.
“Number one, he popped a quarter crack, so first and foremost I have to get that addressed,” Brown said. “Number two, we were always kind of on the fence anyway. We like the horse, we think he’s a nice horse and he ran good [when second] in the Peter Pan, but I don’t know if he’s quite ready for a Grade 1. Those factors and the quarter crack kind of made our decision for us. I’d say I’m 90 percent sure I’m not going to run.”
Other Belmont contenders are Derby winner Orb and runner-up Golden Soul; Preakness winner Oxbow and stablemate Will Take Charge, who was seventh in the Preakness; Giant Finish, who was 10th in the Derby, and Always in a Tiz, ninth in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial.
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) is currently accepting entries for a pair of Facebook drawings for Belmont Stakes and Secretariat gear.
One of the drawings offers memorabilia featuring the logo of the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes. Five randomly selected winners will receive a hat, 10 will receive a T-shirt, 10 will receive a glass with the names of the 144 previous winners, and 20 will receive a pen. Entries close at 11:59 p.m. on June 12. Click here for a full list of rules.
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Belmont Stakes, the other drawing gives fans the chance to win Secretariat gear. One person will receive an 11x14 matted Secretariat photo, two will receive an 8x10 photo, three will receive a DVD of Secretariat’s New York races, 16 will receive posters, and 18 will receive an issue of the Belmont Park Spring/Summer 2013 Post Parade program featuring a Secretariat-themed cover. Entries close at 11:59 p.m. on June 16. A full list of rules is available on the contest page.