06/02/2013 3:48PM

Belmont Stakes workouts: Orb looks sharp in half-mile move


ELMONT, N.Y. – As expected, Sunday morning proved to be a long and busy one on the Belmont Stakes watch. The action started with Vyjack the moment the main track opened at 5:30 and didn’t end until Incognito completed his work over at the training track almost 4 1/2 hours later.

All told, seven of the 10 potential Belmont Stakes horses stabled on the grounds turned in timed workouts Sunday, with an eighth, Freedom Child, stretching his legs with a very strong six-furlong open gallop shortly after 7 a.m.

The weather was unseasonably warm and humid, although perhaps a bit more moderate than the previous couple of mornings, and the main track was lightning-fast once again.

Sunday at Belmont Park

68 degrees, sunny, fast

ORB (four furlongs in 48.30 seconds) – Pretty much splitting hairs when it comes to the work of the day, a designation that also could have gone to several of trainer Todd Pletcher’s Belmont contingent. After turning in a couple of uncharacteristically easy gallops (relative to what I saw in Kentucky prior to the Derby) the previous two days, Orb looked razor sharp during his final Belmont prep.

Breaking off about a half-length behind stablemate Hymn Book, Orb cruised through an easy 24.95-second opening quarter-mile before finishing strongly with only a hint of urging from regular exercise rider Jenn Patterson. The Derby winner covered his final quarter in 23.35 while beginning to edge clear at the wire, then galloped out extremely well, completing five furlongs in 1:00.48 before pulling up six panels in 1:13.77 as he easily drew away from his partner into and around the turn.

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This work was pretty much reminiscent of his brilliant solo effort six days out from the Derby and seems to give every indication that Orb continues to hold the top form he’s displayed since the start of his 3-year-old campaign.

OVERANALYZE (four furlongs in 47.92) – Nothing not to like about this work, which came in company with the graded stakes winner Caixa Eletronica. With jockey John Velazquez aboard, Overanalyze broke off about a length behind and outside his workmate, the pair joining up approaching the stretch after a very leisurely 25.32-second first quarter.

Overanalyze stuck his head in front briefly nearing the eighth pole, but his older mate fought back bravely along the rail, pushing the pair along to a 22.60 final quarter-mile, with both under little to no urging and Caixa Eletronica about a head better on the wire.

The duo continued on strongly past the finish line, galloping out five-eighths in 59.82 before pulling up six furlongs in 1:12.68, with Caixa Eletronica remaining about a head in front. Overanalyze turned in a big work prior to the Kentucky Derby and certainly matched that performance this morning.       

PALACE MALICE (four furlongs in 47.56) – This one was pretty much a carbon copy of Overanalyze’s drill several minutes earlier. Typically a strong work horse, Palace Malice, under exercise rider Anne Finney, broke off inside the 3-year-old maiden Catron while breezing without the blinkers he wore in the Derby. The two completed their opening quarter in 25.10 and finished with good energy and without urging, coming down the stretch to the wire in a lively 22.46, Palace Malice a head in front at the line.

The duo then galloped out strongly, covering five-eighths in 59.76 and pulling up six panels in 1:13.48. Palace Malice arguably has looked the best, from what I’ve seen here over the past several mornings, of the three Pletcher runners who competed last month in the Derby.

REVOLUTIONARY (four furlongs in 48.51) – His was set up to be a mirror image of the previous two works, although this team was not quite as impressive as the other two. With jockey Javier Castellano aboard, Revolutionary breezed outside stablemate Abraham as the duo posted a 25.13-second opening quarter.

Revolutionary had his head cocked slightly to the outside through much of the stretch, although he did finish on his right lead, something he had not done in the majority of his previous breezes. Both horses were put to some mild urging coming to, and for a short ways beyond, the wire. Although Revolutionary did gallop out well, he just hasn’t seemed quite as sharp the past several days as he was in the days and weeks leading up to the Derby.

UNLIMITED BUDGET (four furlongs in 47.48) – Another Work of the Day candidate, a very efficient and impressive-looking half-mile move outside Capo Bastone. With exercise rider Patty Krotenko up, Unlimited Budget was well held outside her partner throughout, completing an opening quarter in 24.40 before coming home in 23.08, hitting the wire a head in front of her slightly pressured mate.

She then galloped out willingly and clearly the best of the team, going five-eighths in 59.68 and six furlongs in 1:13.48. It was almost a duplication of her eye-catching final drill at Churchill Downs a week before the Kentucky Oaks.

MIDNIGHT TABOO (four furlongs in 47.26) – This one may have actually been a five-furlong drill, as he and his work partner, Micromanage, did seem to have plenty of momentum leaving the five-eighths pole. I caught him from the half-mile pole in 47.26, with both horses under urging to finish and Midnight Taboo having to be encouraged further to stay even with his mate and complete a five-furlong gallop-out of 59.61.

Midnight Taboo got very hot during the work, to an even greater degree than he had galloping here Friday, obviously bothered more by the unseasonably high temperatures than Pletcher’s other Belmont workers.

INCOGNITO (four furlongs in 48.32) – He stuck to what is pretty much his regular regimen and breezed over the training track following the second renovation break. Incognito fell about five lengths behind his workmate, Irsaal, in the run down the backstretch and had to rush up to get within a length of his target leaving the half-mile pole. That momentum helped propel him to a surprisingly fast opening quarter in 23.45.

The pair were on even terms for much of the stretch, with Irsaal (a horse trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said has never been beaten in the morning) ultimately prevailing at the wire by about a neck while under less pressure to finish through a very ordinary 24.87 final quarter. There wasn’t much of a gallop-out from Incognito, who completed five-eighths into the turn in 1:03.02.

FREEDOM CHILD did not have an official work, but he made the best impression of any of the Belmont hopefuls during another long and very eye-catching training session.

Freedom Child followed his regular regimen, jogging from the gap back around to the seven-furlong pole before turning around to begin his gallop. Freedom Child’s rider had his feet on the dashboard and all he could handle to keep the powerful chestnut from doing too much for three-eighths of a mile before clearly dropping his head a little once striking the quarter pole.

Freedom Child responded to the cue by open-galloping six furlongs in 1:22.10, his final half in 52.84, with a 12-and-change eighth thrown in for good measure from the finish line, before pulling up at the top of the backstretch at the one-mile pole. The Peter Pan winner continues to give the impression that he is coming into the Belmont at the top of his game.