Archive for June, 2013
For all the pre-race angst that surrounded the decision by his connections to put Wise Dan in Saturday’s Grade II Firecracker Handicap, the real anxiety set in for his connections as the reigning Horse of the Year found himself trapped on the hedge, bobbling over a rain-drenched Churchill Downs course.
Top horses make a habit of shrugging off things that pass for adversity for others. And with an exhausting weight literally on his shoulders and in terms of expectations, the champion gelding used his guts and class to render all the above moot.
Carrying a highweight of 128 pounds, Wise Dan rallied up the hedge and fought past pacesetter Seruni in midstretch to notch a two-length triumph in the $168,450 Firecracker Handicap during a driving rain storm.
The decision by trainer Charlie LoPresti and owner/breeder Morton Fink to even put Wise Dan in the Firecracker drew some scrutiny, with many viewing the race as one beneath his three-time Eclipse Award winning ability.
When Churchill Downs’ director of racing Ben Huffman assigned the 6-year-old Wiseman’s Ferry gelding his 128 pound impost, 11-14 pounds more than any of his four rivals, LoPresti was particularly dismayed more so at the spread of weight his charge would be giving that the assignment itself.
The ability that has earned Wise Dan seven consecutive wins and six career Grade I triumphs came through during what was supposed to be a cake walk of a test. After being pinned on the hedge through an opening quarter in :24.66 and half in :49.06, jockey John Velazquez bulled Wise Dan through a slight inside hole in the lane and vigorously hand-rode him to the wire as mount appeared to take some awkward steps over the turf.
“It was really tough (on me) and I’m just glad he got it done,” LoPresti said. “I had been worried about the weight. It wasn’t so much the weight on him, but the spread. The first thing I said to Johnny is ‘Is he okay?’ because it wasn’t a pretty race.
“When he was pinned down on the hedge I thought ‘Just let him run through. You’re not going to beat him anyway’. I just hope he comes back good.”
Sent off as the overwhelming 1-to-5 favorite, Wise Dan covered the one-mile distance in 1:39.82 over a yielding turf. Lea got up for second with Seruni third.
The Firecracker held a special spot in Wise Dan’s history well before he showed up for Saturday’s less than pretty outing. Back in 2011 when he was just a Grade III winner trying to halt a three-race losing skid, LoPresti put Wise Dan in the Firecracker in what was then his first career start on turf.
His 2 3/4-length victory in that race two years ago served as the jump off point to the grass monster he has become. Since suffering a head loss to Ron the Greek in the 2012 Grade I Stephen Foster on the Churchill main track, Wise Dan has won five Grade I contests on the turf, including his course-record setting triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last November.
Wise Dan won the Grade I Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland in April and Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill in his first two outings this year and now has 16 career victories from 23 starts with $4,164,070 in earnings.
Churchill Downs release:
Eight stakes races with total purses of $975,000 highlight the first September racing meet in the 139-year history of Churchill Downs – 12 days of racing dubbed the Homecoming Meet that will run from Friday, Sept. 6 and continue through Sunday, Sept. 29.
The inaugural schedule is headed by a pair of events for 2-year-olds – the Grade II, $150,000-added Pocahontas and the Grade III, $150,000-added Iroquois – and a new stakes race for older horses designed as a prep for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The $175,000-added Homecoming Classic, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up on the main track, is the only new event on the Homecoming Meet’s inaugural schedule and is one of two stakes contests set for the meet’s second “Downs After Dark” program on Sept. 28.
The seven remaining events on the September meet’s stakes schedule have previously been run during either its Spring or Fall Meets.
“Our Churchill Downs team is looking forward to the new Homecoming Meet and the opportunity to offer new racing and entertainment opportunities to fans, families, businesses and horsemen during a time of year in which the weather is usually the best our region offers,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “Racing Secretary Ben Huffman has worked to fashion a schedule of compelling stakes events and an attractive roster of daily racing opportunities that provide owners and trainers with a wide range of competitive options for their horses.”
The Homecoming Meet’s opening weekend “Downs After Dark” celebration on Saturday, Sept. 7 will feature four stakes events topped by the 44th running of the Pocahontas, a Grade II race for 2-year-old fillies, and the Iroquois, a Grade III event for 2-year-olds set for its 32nd running. Both races are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge events and the winners of the Pocahontas and Iroquois will earn starting spots in the respective fields for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the $2 million Juvenile in early November at Santa Anita.
Both the Pocahontas and the Iroquois were transferred from the positions in the Churchill Downs Fall Meet to the new Homecoming session. The distance of each race has been increased from one mile to 1 1/16 miles and the purse of the Iroquois was increased by $50,000.
Other stakes events on the Sept. 7 evening program are the 21st running of the Grade III, $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at one mile and the $100,000-added Locust Grove for fillies and mares ages 3-and-up at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. The Ack Ack, like the Pocahontas and Iroquois, was moved from its spot on the Fall Meet stakes schedule to the new meeting. The Locust Grove, which was previously run during the Spring Meet and most recently at a mile on turf, returns from a two-year absence and has been refashioned as a race on the main track.
The six-furlong, $100,000-added Open Mind for fillies and mares ages 3 & up, a race previously run during the Spring Meet, is scheduled to be run on Saturday, Sept. 14. The Open Mind was most recently run in 2007 and originated as a five-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies on turf.
The $100,000-added Dogwood, a one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, will be run for the 38th time on Saturday, Sept. 21. Previously run during the Spring Meet, the Dogwood returns to the Churchill Downs schedule after a one-year break.
Joining the inaugural Homecoming Classic on the night racing program on Sept. 28 will be the 37th running of the $100,000-added Jefferson Cup, a Grade III race for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf. The Jefferson Cup, run most recently in 2011 at a distance of 1 1/16 miles on grass, was a Spring Meet attraction in its earlier renewals.
Seating for the Sept. 7 and Sept. 28 “Downs After Dark” celebrations and other racing programs scheduled during the first Homecoming Meet at Churchill Downs is available for purchase online at www.ChurchillDowns.com.
|CHURCHILL DOWNS HOMECOMING MEET STAKES SCHEDULE
Sept. 6-Sept. 29
|Sat., Sept. 7||Iroquois||III||Open||2 YO’s||1 1/16||Dirt||$150,000|
|Pocahontas||II||Fillies||2 YO’s||1 1/16||Dirt||$150,000|
|Locust Grove||F & M||3 & Up||1 1/16||Dirt||$100,000|
|Ack Ack Handicap||III||Open||3 & Up||Mile||Dirt||$100,000|
|Sat., Sept. 14||Open Mind||F & M||3 & Up||6 furlongs||Dirt||$100,000|
|Sat., Sept. 21||Dogwood||Fillies||3 YO’S||7 furlongs||Dirt||$100,000|
|Sat., Sept. 28||Homecoming Classic||Open||3 & Up||1 1/8||Dirt||$175,000|
|Jefferson Cup||III||Open||3 YO’S||Mile||Turf||$100,000|
Heavy doses of sadness at his decision and gratitude for what he accomplished poured through the racing community Thursday morning as word trickled down that Ramon Dominguez, winner of the last three Eclipse Awards for outstanding jockey, announced he was retiring from riding due to injuries he sustained during a spill at Aqueduct in January.
One day before he would earn his third straight Eclipse Award, Dominguez suffered a fractured skull in the spill on January 18. In a statement released through New York Racing Association, the 36-year-old said that upon advice from his physicians “it has been determined that I will no longer be able to pursue my career as a jockey.”
“Riding thoroughbreds has always been my passion and my calling. When I was 13 and watched my first horse race in Venezuela, I knew that I would become a jockey, and my riding career has brought happiness and success beyond what I ever expected,” Dominguez said in the statement. “Thus, it is extremely difficult for me to announce that due to the severity of the injuries I sustained in an accident at Aqueduct Racetrack on January 18, 2013, my professional riding career has come to an end.”
Dominguez added in the statement he was “not yet ready to speak publicly” but thanked fans, friends and fellow horsemen for their support over the last several months.
Dominguez retires with 4,985 victories from 21,267 mounts and career earnings of $191,615,698. Known for his classy demeanor and conduct as much as he was for his aptitude in the saddle, Dominguez was honored with the 2012 George Woolf Award, which honors a rider each year whose career and personal character earns esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.
“All of us at NYRA are saddened to learn that Ramon Dominguez has been forced to end his riding career,” NYRA Vice President and Director of Racing P.J. Campo said in a statement. “Ramon distinguished himself immediately upon moving his tack to New York in 2009. Already a wintertime regular at Aqueduct, Ramon made a seamless transition to riding full-time on the NYRA circuit. He won numerous meet riding titles and many of our top races, en route to becoming New York’s leading rider for each of the past four years.”
Added Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association “Ramon Dominguez leaves an indelible mark on Thoroughbred racing and his profession. Above all, he epitomizes sportsmanship and professionalism as demonstrated by the respect he earned from his fellow jockeys. He is destined for Thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame.”
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Dominguez began riding full time at La Rinconada racetrack in his native country at age 18. He came to the United States in 1995 and rode his first winner in March of 1996 at Hialeah Park.
In 2001 and 2003, Dominguez led all jockeys in the United States in terms of wins and scored his first Grade I triumph aboard A Huevo in the 2003 De Francis Dash. One year later, he would celebrate his first Breeders’ Cup triumph when he guided Graham Motion-trainee Better Talk Now to an upset score in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Prior to being a dominating presence in New York, Dominguez earned the leading rider titles at Delaware Park from 2004-2007 as well as numerous riding crowns at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course. Once he shifted his full-time tack t0 New York in 2008 – long regarded as one of the toughest jockey colonies in the nation – Dominguez would go on to notch 20 individual riding titles on the circuit including nine consecutive leading rider titles at the Inner Track Meet at Aqueduct.
“He always had his horse in the right position, he knew where he was in the race at all times and he just seemed to get the most out of (his mounts),” said Eclipse Award-winning trainer Dale Romans. “It’s a shame (the retirement) because he was right at the front of his career. His best days were still ahead of him.”
Dominguez guided Romans-trainee Little Mike to victory in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf, the same he he set the set a single-year record for earnings with $25,582,252. The previous year, Dominguez won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile aboard eventual champion Hansen and was also the regular rider of 2011 Horse of the Year, Havre de Grace.
“Racing has definitely lost one of the best that we’ve seen in recent years,” said Larry Jones, who trained Havre de Grace. “Not only is he a great jockey but just a great, great human being to be associated with. Our relationship started in Delaware and…then to have Havre de Grace for us, it was just an honor to get to work with him.
“It definitely has saddened my day.”
Dominguez was also the regular rider for three-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti and counts 2006 Kentucky Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat among his other top mounts.
“I hate it, but believe me it could be a lot worse for him,” Jones said. “At least he is walking and hopefully this is something he will still recover from. Maybe like Gary Stevens…seven years from now he decides ‘Hey I can try this again’. Those of us who are selfish and in the business, the greedy part of me hopes that will be the case. But hopefully if he can’t come back to riding, he will find something that is fulfilling for him.”
The Breeders’ Cup announced Monday that Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, Calif., has been selected as the site for the 2014 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, making it the first track to host the event for three consecutive years.
Santa Anita is the site of this year’s 14-race Breeders’ Cup on November 1-2 and hosted the event in 2012 as well. The 2014 running of the Breeders’ Cup will mark the 11th time that the event will be held in Southern California and the eighth time that Santa Anita will host the Breeders’ Cup, after also hosting the event in 1986, 1993, 2003, 2008 and 2009.
The 2014 Breeders’ Cup will be held on October 31 and November 1, 2014 and will be televised by the NBC Sports Group. The 2013 Breeders’ Cup will also be televised by the NBC Sports Group with the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic shown live in primetime on NBC from 8-9 p.m. ET.
“Santa Anita has proven to be an outstanding host for our Championships, providing horsemen and fans around the world with a first class facility and one of the greatest experiences in sports. We are delighted to extend our partnership with Santa Anita for a third consecutive year,” said Craig Fravel, Breeders’ Cup President and CEO. “We also value our relationship with the Southern California business and entertainment community, who have demonstrated long time dedication and support of the Breeders’ Cup since our inception in 1984.”
Churchill Downs, which was expected to be among the front-runners to gain the 2014 Breeders’ Cup, has also been a host track a record eight times most recently in 2010 and 2011. With the Breeders’ Cup not returning to Louisville for 2014, Breeders’ Cup will lose a tax incentive put into place requiring the event to be held in Kentucky at least every three years.
“We wish the Breeders’ Cup and the team at Santa Anita the very best as they prepare for this year’s renewal and next year’s third consecutive stop in Southern California,” John Asher, vice president of racing communications for Churchill Downs, said in a statement. “It’s up to the Breeders’ Cup to explain the reasoning for the selection of its 2014 host site but that decision should in no way be interpreted to be the result of any lack of willingness on the part of Churchill Downs to host the event.
“Churchill Downs had extensive discussions with Breeders’ Cup on the possibility of serving as its host track in 2014 and our parties had no financial disagreements. The Breeders’ Cup and its board simply decided to go another way.”
In a follow up statement, officials with Breeders’ Cup said the organization “values its longstanding partnership with Churchill Downs” and that “any speculation to the effect that Churchill Downs would not be considered as a future host of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is inaccurate. ”
Breeders’ Cup officials indicated that no decisions have been made on host sites beyond 2014 and that the organization remains open to visiting markets that can accommodate the two-day event during its traditional fall timing, provide world class hospitality for its participants and guests and showcase the world’s best Thoroughbred racing.
“To be chosen as the host site for a third consecutive year is a clear indication of Santa Anita’s standing in the worldwide racing community,” said Keith Brackpool, Chairman of the Los Angeles Turf Club. “We look forward to hosting this year’s two-day event in November and following that, we’ll immediately begin planning for 2014. On behalf of our fans, horsemen and employees, we look forward to again celebrating the very best our sport has to offer.”
“In addition to being the two-greatest days in Thoroughbred racing, hosting the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita for the next two years provides us with the opportunity to further develop the Breeders’ Cup brand as a world class entertainment and lifestyle platform,” said Drew Sheinman, Breeders’ Cup Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “We look forward to forging new sponsor and business relationships in the community.
Over the years, some of the greatest moments in Breeders’ Cup history have taken place at Santa Anita, including the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic when Zenyatta became the first female ever to win the Classic. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup, witnessed by 89,742 over the two days, featured winners representing a cross-section of horses from the U.S. and overseas, highlighted by Fort Larned winning the Classic and the 5-year-old Wise Dan capturing the Breeders’ Cup Mile, which later earned him the 2012 Horse of the Year title.
Five-time Grade I winner Point of Entry will be sidelined for an undetermined amount of time after he emerged from his victory in Saturday’s Grade I Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park with a non-displaced condylar fracture in his left hind cannon bone, trainer Shug McGaughey said Sunday morning.
McGaughey, who also saddled Kentucky Derby winner Orb to a third-place run in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, said the son of Dynaformer would van to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington to have a screw put in via surgery performed by Dr. Larry Bramlage on Monday.
“I don’t know what the down time is until (Bramlage looks at him) but he said maybe two weeks stall rest, two weeks hand walking and then maybe start riding him under tack,” McGaughey said. “It’s not real bad, it separated a bit but I feel sure it will go together perfect. He walked 80 percent sound.
McGaughey said Point of Entry appeared to cool out fine following his 1 1/2-length win over Optimizer over a yielding turf but that the staff noticed he was off early Sunday. Though he scratched out of the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 4 due to boggy turf conditions, McGaughey didn’t necessarily think Saturday’s rain-soaked turf played a role in the injury.
“I knew carrying 124 pounds over that course yesterday was going to be a grind, and it was” he said. “But I think the course was probably in better shape than they talked about it being in. Churchill was a lot boggier.”
McGaughey said that best case scenario would have Point of Entry able to return to racing by September with a start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf “not out of the question” if all were to go perfect.
Owned by Phipps Stable and Frank Stronach, Point of Entry was slated to be retired to stud Adena Springs following this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Given his current injury, McGaughey said it was unclear yet if the five-year-old bay horse would remain in training beyond this season if he did come back.
“The intention were all along to retire him at the end of the year and I don’t know if they would want to roll the dice and see what happens,” McGaughey said. “Stronach likes to race but if it’s going to be a long rehab time we might have to go on and pull the rug out from under him. I’m hoping myself that’s not the case.”
Point of Entry defeated champion and eventual Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap during his seasonal bow on February 9. He has won nine of 17 career starts with $2,314,490 in earnings, including victories last year in the Grade I Man o’ War Stakes, Sword Dancer Invitational, and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
“Not the greatest morning,” McGaughey said. “But you get up in the morning not knowing what you’re going to find.”
ELMONT, N.Y. – Seventeen years ago, Cot Campbell had faith. Faith that the unknown trainer he was taking a chance on by sending horses to would eventually help deliver his Dogwood Stable partnership to Thoroughbred racing’s greatest heights.
For the better part of the last six months, both Campbell and his now five-time Eclipse Award winning conditioner Todd Pletcher were keeping hope alive regarding an upstart son of Curlin, repeatedly giving the chestnut colt chances to deliver the goose bumps in a race that he inspired in the mornings.
The reward that results at the end of a long, arduous journey often has an extra delicious tinge of sweetness to it. And in the lengthiest test of the Triple Crown series, all of that unwavering belief delivered in a way that trumped prior expectations.
After months of frustrating his connections with his unfulfilled promise, all was forgiven regarding Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice in the wake of his upset 3 1/4-length triumph over Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow and Kentucky Derby hero Orb in the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes before a crowd of 47,562 Saturday.
Of the five horses Pletcher saddled in the final leg of the Triple Crown, Palace Malice was the one who consistently had his now two-time Belmont Stakes winning trainer on a mental roller coaster.
In his morning works, Palace Malice had Pletcher comparing him to some of the champions who had passed through his care. Too often on raceday, however, the colt would resemble an also-ran with just one win from seven prior starts coming into Saturday.
As he ranged up under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to take over the lead from Oxbow entering the stretch of the 1 1/2-miles Belmont, Pletcher’s normally unflappable nature jumped into his throat at the realization of what was about to transpire.
“I told Mike that at about the 16th pole, I jumped on pretty hard,” joked Pletcher, who ironically won his first Belmont in 2007 when the champion filly Rags to Riches defeated Palace Malice’s sire Curlin. “Two works back, I told Mr. Campbell afterwards it was as good a work as I’ve ever seen a horse put forth in the morning. He’d become a little bit frustrating because we really felt there was a big one in him.
“It’s an emotional win for me because of the Dogwood connection,” Pletcher added. “They supported me from the very beginning and to win a big race for them is gratifying.”
Viewed as the father of Thoroughbred racing partnerships that are now the norm, Campbell celebrated his first classic win with Summer Squall taking the Preakness in 1990. Though Campbell has scaled back his operation in recent years, Dogwood maintains about 30-35 horses in the ongoing quest to get its signature green and yellow silks back to top-level glory.
Palace Malice has those colors winging away out front in the Kentucky Derby for nearly a mile when, keyed up from wearing blinkers for the first time, he ran off to suicidal early fractions before fading to 12th.
Said blinkers were a thing of the past for the Belmont. And with fresh legs under him after skipping the Preakness Stakes, Palace Malice was the picture of relaxation as he settled on an outside path just behind Frac Daddy, Freedom Child and Oxbow up front as the opening half of the Belmont went in a wicked :46.66.
“He completely ran through the bridle (in the Derby),” said Smith, who won his second Belmont in the last four runnings. “Today, he was just so relaxed. It seemed like every ten strides he would just fill up with air and start in a beautiful rhythm.
“When I ranged up to (jockey) Gary (Stevens on Oxbow), he looked over to me and says ‘Go on little brother, you’re moving better than me’.”
As Palace Malice began drawing off from his 13 rivals, Orb was vainly making a sustained run to the outside after being next to last after the first half mile.
The sweeping move that took everyone’s breath away on Derby day was more of a slow grind Saturday with the 2-to-1 favorite only able to muster third, 1 3/4-lengths behind a dead game Oxbow who held for second.
“(Jockey) Joel (Rosario) said he when started picking up horses, he thought they’d come back to them more than they did,” said Shug McGaughey, trainer of Orb. “The two in front didn’t. It’s difficult to make a run like that over this racetrack. You’ve got to be there and we weren’t there.”
Added Stevens on Oxbow, “I’m so proud of this colt, I thought I was dead midway down the backside. They were suicidal fractions and..going into the far turn, I didn’t think he would hit the board. He’s one of the bravest Thoroughbreds I’ve sat on.”
Final time for the 12 furlong test was 2:30.70 over a track that was rated fast despite the deluge of rain that hit Friday.
Dismissed by the betting public at 13-to-1 odds for his prior shortcomings, Palace Malice now has his connections wondering what he can do now that he has woken up instead of repeatedly pondering when he will show up.
“I was just hoping he would have an absence of bad luck,” Campbell said. “We had trouble in the Louisiana Derby, we didn’t go too good in the Kentucky Derby. God knows though we went good today.”
Courtesy of NYRA publicity staff:
Trainer Ken McPeek confirmed Monday morning that Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy, 16th in the Kentucky Derby, will run Saturday in the Belmont Stakes.
McPeek said the Scat Daddy colt will fly to New York from Kentucky tomorrow and be ridden in the third leg of the Triple Crown by Alan Garcia.
“Talking to Carter Stewart, the principal partner for Magic City, he’s game, you know?” McPeek said. “We still believe this is a really, really good horse, but for whatever reason it hasn’t happened for him. Sometimes you throw deep and it goes incomplete, but you can’t score if you don’t throw. (Stewart) is the ideal client to throw deep and we won the Travers for him last year (with dead-heat winner Golden Ticket).”
Frac Daddy, who descends from the same female family as 1997 Delaware Handicap winner Power Play, has one win in seven career starts. He broke his maiden in his second start last November at Churchill Downs and then finished second in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club.
This year, he disappointed McPeek with a sixth-place finish in the Grade III Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, and then was three wide on the far turn when seventh behind Orb in the Florida Derby. Frac Daddy earned his way into the Kentucky Derby with a runner-up effort in the Grade I Arkansas Derby.
“I do believe the horse will run well,” McPeek said of the plan to go in the Belmont. “I think the pace in the Belmont will suit him well, too. He drew outside in the Derby and couldn’t get position, and I don’t think he handled the slop. He’s worked on a dry track a couple times recently and worked freaky good. I think he’s got a big shot at it.”
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said Kentucky Derby winner Orb was maintaining good form the morning after the colt breezed four furlongs, his final major work prior to the 1 1/2-miles Belmont.
“He came out of his work good, ate up good, walked this morning, seems to be fine,” said McGaughey, who trains the son of Malibu Moon for Stuart S. Janney, III and Phipps Stable.
As many as 15 horses could end up contesting the 2013 Belmont Stakes, which could force Orb, a stretch-runner, and jockey Joel Rosario to thread their way through traffic.
“(The large field is) more concerning than anything else because not all of them in there belong, but they have as much right to run as anybody else, so I do think the race will be pretty spread out,” said McGaughey. “He ran with 18 in the Derby.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher reported this morning that all five of his Belmont Stakes hopefuls were “A-OK” following their breezes on Sunday, and that a decision on race status for the filly Unlimited Budget and the lightly raced Midnight Taboo was still pending.
“I have not yet spoken with (owner) Mike Repole, and he will make the final decision,” said Pletcher, who definitely will saddleWinStar Farm’s Revolutionary, Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice, and Repole’s Overanalyze in the 1 ½-mile race.
Trainer Dominick Schettino said on Monday he and owners Anthony and MaryEllen Bonomo will make a final decision on Always in a Tiz’s status for the Belmont by tomorrow afternoon. Schettino and the Bonomos will choose either the Belmont Stakes or the $150,000 Easy Goer on Saturday’s undercard for Always in a Tiz, most recently ninth in the Grade I Wood Memorial on April 6.
Monday morning rain prompted trainer Rudy Rodriguez to push back Vyjack’s scheduled breeze to Tuesday. Instead, the 18th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby galloped 1 ½ miles over the Belmont main track with Rodriguez aboard.
Rodriguez said Vyjack’s Tuesday breeze will come at 8:45 a.m. The trainer also confirmed that Julien Leparoux will ride the Pick Six Racing color-bearer for the first time in the Belmont Stakes.
“He’s a very good rider and has very good hands, Rodriguez said of Leparoux. “Hopefully, he’ll be able to get the horse to relax and be at the back of the pack. And, hopefully, he’ll be able to make a move.”