The weekend of May 30 and 31, five contenders for the 2009 Belmont Stakes (G1) were on the track at Belmont Park in preparation for the big race on June 6th. Entries will be taken and post positions drawn for the 141st Belmont Stakes on Wednesday, so check back that afternoon to see who actually enters the race.
Saturday morning trainer Nick Zito's charges Brave Victory and Miner's Escape, both owned by Robert V. LaPenta, worked together after the break under jockey Rajiv Maragh and exercise rider Eddie Cruz, respectively, going a half-mile in 48.66 over the fast main track. The time was the fifth-fastest of 14 at the distance.
Brave Victory (outside) and Miner's Escape work together on Saturday morning.
"I was very happy with everything," said Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito of Brave Victory, who will be ridden by Maragh in the Belmont, and Miner's Escape, who will have Jose Lezcano up. "I wanted them to go even. They both went great, and they're ready to go."
Brave Victory, third in the Peter Pan (G2), and Miner's Escape, winner of the Federico Tesio on May 9 at Pimlico, are the 21st and 22nd Belmont starters saddled by Zito. He has won the race twice with Birdstone in 2004 and Da' Tara in 2008. Zito said there remained a slight possibility My Meadowview Farm's Nowhere to Hide, 17th in the Kentucky Derby in his last start, would mark the trainer's 23rd starter in the Belmont. "He's up at Saratoga," said Zito. "He'll work either Sunday or Monday, but right now, I'm leaning against it."
Summer Bird works on Saturday morning.
After the renovation break Saturday morning, Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman's Summer Bird went five furlongs under Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux in 1:01.89, the fifth-fastest of nine moves at the distance. Desormeaux said he was delighted with the way Summer Bird, like Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird a son of Birdstone, went Saturday morning.
"He breezed brilliantly," said Desormeaux, who is 0-for-6 in the Belmont. "I
think what impressed me the most about Summer Bird was his energy level. He
came off the track happier than he went out, which is a great indication of a
healthy, happy horse, as well as a fast one."
On Sunday morning, Charitable Man and Dunkirk, who could be the second and third
choices behind Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Belmont Stakes, turned in their final works. Charitable Man covered a half-mile in 49.00 with exercise rider Renzo Morales aboard, not long after Dunkirk went the same distance in 49.57 under jockey John Velazquez.
Charitable Man works on Sunday morning.
Owned by Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren, Jr., Charitable Man won both his
starts at age 2, including the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont Park. He finished
seventh in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in his 3-year-old debut then won the Peter Pan (G2) at Belmont Park on May 9. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, "Last week he went off a little fast for our liking, so in coaching him, he went off better today and therefore, a little slower, but we were very happy with it. We believe he's a fit horse, happy and healthy, and he doesn't need those :46 works. We're ready to go."
"We feel we've got the horse to beat," added McLaughlin, who won the 2006
Belmont with Jazil. "Mine That Bird we have a lot of respect for, Dunkirk, and
other horses, but I wouldn't trade places with anyone. We've got a fresh
horse, he's 2-for-2 on this racetrack, just won impressively here four weeks
ago and he couldn't be training any better. We're very confident."
Dunkirk (outside) works in company with Monba on Sunday morning.
"He did it very easily," said Pletcher of Dunkirk, who won his first two
starts this year, finished second to Quality Road in the Florida Derby (G1)
and was then 11th over a sloppy, sealed track in the Kentucky Derby (G1). "He's got terrific action, a smooth, fluid strike. I feel he's a top-quality horse, and has run well in three of his four races. The Derby, to me, I have to put a line through that race. I felt he didn't handle the surface at all in that race."
Pletcher said he thought Charitable Man was the horse to beat in the Belmont Stakes. "At this point, Charitable Man is going to be on an uncontested, easy lead," said Pletcher, winner of the 2007 Belmont Stakes with the filly Rags to
Riches. "That's my biggest concern, aside from the fact he's probably the
horse to beat to begin with, and now he's got a pace advantage. He's coming
off a Peter Pan win, he's 2-for-2, and basically he's never been beaten on the
dirt ... it's going to be hard to catch a quality horse like Charitable Man if
he gets a half in :49."
Although remote, the trainer did not rule out the possibility of entering a "rabbit" to ensure an honest pace in the Belmont, which last year was won in wire-to-wire fashion by longshot Da' Tara. Pletcher said, "I might talk to (owners) Mrs. John Magnier, Mr. Michael Tabor and Mr. Derrick Smith, and see what their thoughts are, but at this point, we haven't talked about it. Probably not."
Triple Crown quick links:
Oxbow upsets in the Preakness - Oxbow led the entire way in the Preakness Stakes (G1) on Saturday at Pimlico with Itsmyluckyday second and Mylute third. Heavy favorite Orb made a mild move to finish fourth. Get the results, charts, and photos here.
Preakness undercard stakes results - There were 7 other stakes on the card, highlighted by the Dixie Stakes (G2) won by Skyring and the Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes (G3) won by Summer Applause. Get the results, charts, and photos for 6 of the races here.
Fiftyshadesofhay wins the Black-Eyed Susan - Fiftyshadesofhay just got up to win the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) on Friday at Pimlico by a neck over Marathon Lady with favorite Emollient 6th. On the undercard, Last Gunfighter won the Pimlico Special (G3). Get the results, charts, and photos here.
Analyzing the Preakness Stakes Contenders for 2013 - My annual analysis using popular angles and statistical trends to see who best matches the profile of a Preakness winner. The big surprise is that Kentucky Derby winner Orb is not in the top group!
Orb wins the Kentucky Derby - Orb was far back early but took the lead in the stretch and drew off to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) by 2 1/2 lengths over longshot Golden Soul and Revolutionary. Get the results, charts, and photos here.
More Kentucky Derby Photos - More photos from the day including more of Orb, the trophy, the roses, Martina McBride, and lots of mud.
Kentucky Derby undercard stakes results - There were 5 other stakes on Derby day including the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) won by 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan and the Humana Distaff Stakes (G1) won by Aubby K. Get the results, charts, and photos for all 5 races here.
Princess of Sylmar upsets in the Kentucky Oaks - She rallied from far back to win the Kentucky Oaks by a half length over Beholder and Unlimited Budget, while favorite Dreaming of Julia was fourth. Get the results, chart, and photos here.
Kentucky Oaks undercard stakes results - There were 5 other stakes on Oaks day including the La Troienne Stakes (G2) won by Authenticity and the Alysheba Stakes (G3) won by Take Charge Indy. Get the results, charts, and photos for all 5 races here.
Kentucky Oaks Entries - A field of 11 fillies will go, with Gulfstream Oaks winner Dreaming of Julia favorite at 3-1 from post 8. Get the post positions, odds, and free past performances here.
Top Kentucky Derby Contenders - my list of the top horses headed to the Derby with profiles for each with photos, stats, and link to more info like past performances and pedigree.
Analyzing the top 2013 Kentucky Derby contenders - My annual analysis of the top contenders to try and select a winner by matching each to the profile of a Kentucky Derby winner using many of the more popular angles and statistical trends. This year there were is a 3-way tie for the top spot: Goldencents, Normandy Invasion, and Overanalyze.
2013 Kentucky Derby And Oaks Security - New enhanced stricter rules will be enforced this year. Be sure to read the rules as many have changed and more things are banned. There will still be magnetic wand searches of all patrons and many things are no longer allowed. Check here to make sure you don't bring anything they will confiscate.
Review: Triple Crown Handicapper 2013 - by Jim Mazur. Includes lots of stats for all 3 races and explains how to use a system of statistically derived negative angles to eliminate the "bad" picks.
Review: Kentucky Derby Greatest Moments - Commemorative DVD from Churchill Downs with video from 27 different runnings along with interviews, photos, and historical info. Definitely recommended for any racing fan!
Review: Churchill Downs - America's Most Historic Racetrack by Kimberly Gatto. An entertaining and informative account of the history of the track and it's most famous race, the Kentucky Derby, with lots of photos. Definitely recommended.