05/26/2017 1:46PM

Belmont Doings: Local knowledge lands Irad Ortiz mount on Lookin At Lee

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Barbara D. Livingston
Lookin At Lee had Corey Lanerie aboard for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. in the Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The band is getting back together.

Last year, trainer Steve Asmussen tabbed Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride Creator in the Belmont Stakes, and the locally based rider gave the horse a flawless ride to beat Destin by a nose. On Friday, Asmussen confirmed that Ortiz will ride Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee in the 149th Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Ortiz replaces Corey Lanerie, who rode Lookin At Lee in the Derby and to a fourth-place finish in the Preakness.

Ortiz has won three Belmont Park riding titles and is the leading rider at the current meet with 25 wins through Thursday. Lanerie, a perennial leading rider at Churchill Downs, is 2 for 27 in his career at Belmont.

“He’s riding him for the exact same reason Corey Lanerie rode him in the Derby,” Asmussen said, “the familiarity with Belmont itself.”

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Lookin At Lee shipped to New York the morning after the Preakness. Originally, Asmussen planned to work Lookin At Lee just once between races. On Friday, Asmussen said Lookin At Lee was doing so well that he likely will breeze on the next two Mondays leading up to the Belmont.

“Lookin At Lee spoils us to death with his condition and how he acts,” Asmussen said.

Lookin At Lee will be one of two horses expected to run in all three legs of this year’s Triple Crown, along with Classic Empire, who was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second, beaten a head, in the Preakness.

On Friday, trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed what had been widely assumed since the Preakness: Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, who finished eighth in the Preakness, will skip the Belmont. He will be pointed to either the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 29 or the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 30, Pletcher said.

Always Dreaming has jogged the last two mornings at Belmont Park and will continue to jog for the foreseeable future, Pletcher said.

Trainer Chad Brown said he wants to wait through the weekend before declaring where Preakness winner Cloud Computing will run next. However, all signs indicate he will not run in the Belmont.

The Belmont field is limited to 16 starters, and as of Friday, there were 16 horses whose connections have mentioned the race as a possibility. The largest Belmont field was 15 in 1983.

In addition to Lookin At Lee and Classic Empire, others expected to run include Conquest Mo Money, Epicharis, Gormley, Irap, J Boys Echo, Meantime, Multiplier, Patch, Senior Investment, Tapwrit, True Timber, and Twisted Tom. Irish War Cry, the Wood Memorial winner, and Hollywood Handsome, who won a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs on May 14, are possible.

Irap works at Santa Anita

Irap, the Blue Grass Stakes winner, worked six furlongs in 1:14.40 on Friday at Santa Anita. Owned by Paul Reddam, Irap worked in company with another Reddam-owned colt. The two stayed right together, according to trainer Doug O’Neill, who said Irap galloped out a mile in 1:43.

“The energy seems there,” O’Neill said “We know the talent’s there.”

Irap finished 18th in the Kentucky Derby, a result O’Neill attributes to the sloppy track.

O’Neill said Irap would do all his serious training at Santa Anita before shipping to New York the week of the Belmont.

O’Neill said he also plans to bring Denman’s Call for the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and Shane’s Girlfriend for the Grade 1 Acorn.

◗ Trainer Mark Casse said that Classic Empire will do all his serious training at Churchill Downs before shipping to New York the week of the race. Casse said Classic Empire likely will breeze next Friday.

◗ Trainer Dallas Stewart said he hasn’t ruled out the Belmont Stakes for Hollywood Handsome, but he is more likely to run in the $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 24. Hollywood Handsome worked a half-mile in 48.20 seconds on Friday at Churchill.

◗ If, as expected, Cloud Computing skips the Belmont, his jockey, Javier Castellano, will ride Twisted Tom in the Belmont for Brown.

POSSIBLE BELMONT STAKES CONTENDERS
HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY LAST RACE/FINISH
Classic Empire  Mark Casse Julien Leparoux Preakness, 2nd
Conquest Mo Money Miguel Hernandez undecided Preakness, 7th
Epicharis Kiyoshi Hagiwara Christophe Lemaire UAE Derby, 2nd
Gormley John Shirreffs Victor Espinoza Ky. Derby, 9th
Hollywood Handsome Dallas Stewart undecided CD allowance, 1st
Irap Doug O’Neill Mario Gutierrez Ky. Derby, 18th
Irish War Cry Graham Motion Rajiv Maragh Ky. Derby, 10th
J Boys Echo Dale Romans undecided Ky. Derby, 15th
Lookin At Lee Steve Asmussen Irad Ortiz, Jr. Preakness, 4th
Meantime Brian Lynch undecided Peter Pan, 2nd
Multiplier Brendan Walsh Joel Rosario Preakness, 6th
Patch Todd Pletcher undecided Ky. Derby, 14th
Senior Investment Kenny McPeek Channing Hill Preakness, 3rd
Tapwrit Todd Pletcher Jose Ortiz Ky. Derby, 6th
True Timber Kiaran McLaughlin undecided Sir Barton, 3rd
Twisted Tom Chad Brown Javier Castellano Tesio, 1st