Updated on 06/02/2011 12:23PM

Belmont Stakes: Nehro works sharply at Churchill

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Churchill Downs/ Reed Palmer Photography
Nehro, with Carlos Rosas aboard, works inside of stablemate Dominus on Monday at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Derby runner-up, Nehro covered six furlongs in 1:12.20.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – On the day that Preakness winner Shackleford arrived in New York, one of his and Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom’s sternest rivals for the upcoming Belmont Stakes put in a stout workout at Churchill Downs.

Nehro, the Kentucky Derby runner-up who figures among the top three betting choices for the June 11 Belmont Stakes, worked six furlongs in 1:12.20 Monday morning over a fast main track at Churchill. Nehro worked in company with the stakes-placed Dominus. Both horses are trained by Steve Asmussen.

BELMONT STAKES: Replays, contenders, and news updates »

Though Nehro was beaten by about a length by Dominus in the breeze, his connections were very pleased with how both 3-year-olds went about their work.

“I thought they went great,’’ said Scott Blasi, the Asmussen assistant who accompanied the set to the racetrack aboard a stable pony shortly after sunrise.

With Nehro closest to the rail, and with regular exercise rider Carlos Rosas aboard, the duo hit the six-furlong pole in full stride, proceeding through splits of 12 seconds, 24.20, 36.20, 48, and 1:00. They galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25.60 and a mile in 1:39.

Prior to finishing second in the Kentucky Derby, Nehro, owned by the Zayat Stables of Ahmed Zayat, finished second in both the Louisiana and Arkansas derbies. He was briefly under consideration for the Preakness before Zayat announced five days before that race that Nehro would wait for the Belmont.

Five of the last 11 Belmont winners ran in the Derby and skipped the Preakness, including Empire Maker, the 2003 Derby runner-up. Rags to Riches won the 2007 Belmont after winning the Kentucky Oaks – the day before the Derby – and not running in between.

Asmussen, who watched Nehro’s work on the frontside before catching a morning flight to Dallas to attend Monday’s races at Lone Star Park, said he tentatively plans on shipping Nehro to Belmont Park on Thursday evening.

“I have to talk to Mr. Zayat first, but that’s most likely the plan,’’ said Asmussen, who maintains a full barn of horses at Belmont.

Such a shipping arrangement would allow Nehro to have a final pre-race work over the Belmont surface, presumably next Monday.

About four hours after Nehro worked at Churchill Downs, Shackleford arrived at Belmont Park just after 10 a.m. following a 15-hour van ride from Kentucky.

After a tour of the shed row and a bath, Shackleford was bedded down in barn 7 at Belmont, where trainer Dale Romans has about 11 horses stabled with assistant trainer Scott Everett. Romans was expected to arrive in New York Monday night to begin overseeing Shackleford’s training, which will likely include a workout on Saturday.

While Romans hasn’t fully committed to running Shackleford in the Belmont, early indications are the horse will run as long as Romans sees “nothing negative’’ from the colt.

“As long as he trains like normal, as long as it looks like he has that same energy level, we’ll want to go,’’ Romans said Monday morning from Kentucky. “So far, he’s bounced out of the race in good shape. Down here he’s trained very well.’’

Romans said Shackleford would just walk on Tuesday and return to the track on Wednesday. Romans, who shipped First Dude to Belmont well in advance of last year’s Belmont Stakes in which First Dude finished third, said he believes it’s important for a horse to get accustomed to Belmont’s sandy, 1 1/2-mile oval.

“I think it’s a different racetrack to ship into personally,’’ Romans said. “Those wide, sweeping turns you got to stay on your left lead all the way around there, plus the surface is a lot different. If you get a lot of rain it becomes deep and sandy and I think it’ll do him some good to train over it.’’

In other Belmont news:

◗ Trainer Bob Baffert said he will not be sending anything to run in the Belmont Stakes. At one point Baffert was considering Awesome Patriot or Uncle Sam.

◗ Trainer Donnie Von Hemel announced on Sunday that Peter Pan Stakes winner Alternation would skip the Belmont to have a fresher horse for the summer stakes such as the Jim Dandy and Travers, both at Saratoga.

“We looked things over and decided to take a breather,’’ said Von Hemel, who trains Alternation for the Pin Oak Stable of Josephine Abercrombie. “The horse is fine. We just decided to point for races like the Jim Dandy and the Travers. He’s had four or five races early in the year. We want to give him a little breather now, then make some noise later.’’

– additional reporting by David Grening and Jay Privman
 

Belmont Stakes probable starters:
Horse Trainer Last start
Animal Kingdom Graham Motion 2nd - Preakness
Brilliant Speed Tom Albertrani 7th - Ky. Derby
Isn’t He Perfect Doodnauth Shivmangal 9th - Preakness
Master of Hounds Aidan O'Brien 5th - Ky. Derby
Monzon Ignacio Correas IV 6th - Peter Pan
Mucho Macho Man Kathy Ritvo 6th - Preakness
Nehro Steve Asmussen 2nd - Ky. Derby
Prime Cut Neil Howard 3rd - Peter Pan
Ruler On Ice Kelly Breen 2nd - Federico Tesio
Santiva Eddie Kenneally 6th - Ky. Derby
Shackleford Dale Romans 1st - Preakness
Stay Thirsty Todd Pletcher 12th - Ky. Derby
     
Possibles:    
Harlan’s Hello Doodnauth Shivmangal 1st - Op. claiming