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Fresh legs pose danger to Exaggerator
ELMONT, N.Y. – Since the start of the millennium, eight of the 16 runnings of the Belmont Stakes have been won by horses who ran on Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs, then had five weeks off prior to the Belmont.
That angle could prove pivotal again this year, as five of the contenders in the 148th Belmont Stakes on Saturday have been similarly managed in the hopes of pulling off an upset over the favored Exaggerator, who will be just one of two horses – along with Lani – to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown this year.
Thirteen horses were entered in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont on Wednesday, the second-largest field in the last 20 years, bested only by the 14 who ran in 2013. With Nyquist having won the Derby and Exaggerator the Preakness, this will be the first Belmont without a Triple Crown bid since 2013.
Exaggerator, who was second in the Derby, drew post 11 and is strongly favored, especially with Nyquist skipping this race after taking ill following the Preakness. Exaggerator is 3-5 on the morning line set by Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, and 9-5 on the line of Eric Donovan of the New York Racing Association.
Stradivari is the distant second choice on Watchmaker’s line at 10-1, with Destin next at 12-1. Donovan also has Stradivari as the second choice, but at 5-1, and Destin the third choice at only 6-1.
From the rail out, the field is: Governor Malibu, Destin, Cherry Wine, Suddenbreakingnews, Stradivari, Gettysburg, Seeking the Soul, Forever d’Oro, Trojan Nation, Lani, Exaggerator, Brody’s Cause, and Creator.
“Exaggerator is the deserving favorite,” said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Suddenbreakingnews, who was fifth in the Kentucky Derby in his last start after finishing second in the Arkansas Derby. “We have to hope that it’s an advantage that we didn’t run in the Preakness and pointed to the Belmont.
“It was three weeks from the Arkansas Derby to the Kentucky Derby, then it would have been two weeks to the Preakness, then three to the Belmont. We thought our horse’s best chance to win a Grade 1 Triple Crown race was the Belmont.”
Destin (sixth in the Derby), Brody’s Cause (seventh), Creator (13th), and Trojan Nation (16th) have been similarly managed.
“The five weeks should do him some good,” trainer Dale Romans said of Brody’s Cause.
This style of management is a fairly recent phenomenon, reflecting the gradual trend of trainers giving their horses more time between starts. Empire Maker in 2003 and Birdstone in 2004 stopped Triple Crown bids after running in the Derby and then laying in wait until the Belmont.
“It definitely made a difference, I know it did,” trainer Nick Zito, who sent out Birdstone to deny Smarty Jones the Triple Crown, said this week. “The Triple Crown itself is such a strenuous thing. It’s so hard just to get to the Derby with all preps – Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, Blue Grass. So many. Right or wrong? By giving Birdstone a good break in between, he was able to recover mentally.”
Commendable (2000), Jazil (2006), Summer Bird (2009), Union Rags (2012), and Palace Malice (2013) also ran in the Derby and then had five weeks off before winning the Belmont. Rags to Riches (2007) won the Kentucky Oaks the day before that year’s Derby and then awaited the Belmont.
“It’s a logical move for us if you’re not set on the Preakness,” Todd Pletcher, who trained both Rags to Riches and Palace Malice and has Destin on a similar schedule this year, said as he watched his horses train at Belmont Park. “We get to spend five weeks here preparing for it. It makes sense.
“Any time you’re running at your home track, it’s somewhat of an advantage. We get five weeks, settle in. The five weeks from the Derby – or the Oaks in the case of Rags to Riches – is good timing. You get a good foundation in the preps and then the Derby or the Oaks, a real good conditioning foundation you need to run a mile and a half.”
Destin, Pletcher said, “has done well, put on a few pounds since the Derby.”
“I thought he ran an underappreciated race in the Derby,” Pletcher said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t break well. The track was advantageous to horses who were closer than he was. He used up a lot of energy to get to a good position at the top of the stretch, and then he flattened out, but it wasn’t a bad effort by any means.”
Pletcher also trains Stradivari.
Three other trainers have multiple entries. Steve Asmussen has Creator and recently had Gettysburg transferred to his barn, Romans sends out Brody’s Cause and Cherry Wine, and Dallas Stewart will run Forever d’Oro and Seeking the Soul, both of whom are owned by Charles Fipke.
Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm is the majority owner of Creator – in whom celebrity chef Bobby Flay purchased a minority interest on Wednesday – and owns Gettysburg. WinStar also owns the breeding rights to Exaggerator.
Exaggerator completed his serious training for the Belmont on Tuesday with a five-furlong workout timed by DRF in 1:00.92. He jogged two miles on the training track Wednesday and seemed quite fresh, as though he’s still thriving despite the demands of the Triple Crown.
“It took him a half-mile to settle,” said trainer Keith Desormeaux.
Also on Wednesday, Lani worked five furlongs in 1:00.74 at the end of the third of his four trips around the oval.
The Belmont is the 11th race on a 13-race card on Saturday. It will be shown live by NBC Sports during a two-hour telecast that begins at 5 p.m. Eastern.
– additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch
|POST||HORSE / SIRE||TRACK ODDS||WATCHMAKER ODDS||BEST BEYER||DERBY FINISH, BEYER||PREAKNESS FINISH, BEYER||JAY PRIVMAN AND MIKE WATCHMAKER COMMENTS|
|- designates Keeneland Sales graduate|
|Governor Malibu||12-1||20-1||94||**||**||JP: Second in Peter Pan to a very promising colt. Same trainer, jockey as 2014 Belmont winner Tonalist.|
|by Malibu Moon||MW: Appeared to be used much of the way in the Peter Pan. Not sure he'll move forward again here.|
|Owner: Jump Sucker Stable & Oak Bluff Stable; Trainer: Christophe Clement; Jockey: Joel Rosario|
|Destin||6-1||12-1||100||6th, 93||**||JP: Worked way to a contending position entering lane in Derby, flattened out, failed to switch leads.|
|by Giant's Causeway||MW: Pletcher's good. I mean, really good. But this colt has had but one start over the last 13 weeks.|
|Owner: Twin Creeks Racing Stables & Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners; Trainer: Todd Pletcher; Jockey: Javier Castellano|
|Cherry Wine||8-1||15-1||96||**||2nd, 96||JP: Hugged rail in the Preakness and just did get up in the final strides to nose out Nyquist for second.|
|by Paddy O'Prado||MW: He really was aided by the fast pace and the slop in the Preakness, but he's improving, too.|
|Owner: William Pacella & Frank Jones Jr.; Trainer: Dale Romans; Jockey: Corey Lanerie|
|Suddenbreakingnews||10-1||15-1||96||5th, 96||**||JP: After early trouble in Derby, made strong late run, passing 14 runners final half. My pick to upset.|
|by Mineshaft||MW: Even if it was because of the fast early pace, he really was motoring late at Churchill. Dangerous.|
|Owner: Samuel Henderson; Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel; Jockey: Mike Smith|
|Stradivari||5-1||10-1||100||**||4th, 95||JP: This is his third start off a layoff and he really didn't run all that badly in the slop in the Preakness.|
|by Medaglia d'Oro||MW: Having Gettysburg as an early target might be even better for him than if he were the pacesetter.|
|Owner: John Gunther, Michael Tabor, et al; Trainer: Todd Pletcher; Jockey: John Velazquez|
|Gettysburg||30-1||30-1||90||**||**||JP: Entered to help provide pace for late-running WinStar interests like Creator and Exaggerator.|
|by Pioneerof the Nile||MW: Surprised it took until Monday for a legitimate speed horse to join the cast, even if he's a rabbit.|
|Owner: WinStar Farm; Trainer: Steve Asmussen; Jockey: Paco Lopez|
|Seeking the Soul||30-1||30-1||88||**||**||JP: Beat maidens in good time at Churchill, but coming back on short rest, shipping, and aiming high.|
|by Perfect Soul||MW: He's also making his first start around two turns. Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?|
|Owner: Charles Fipke; Trainer: Dallas Stewart; Jockey: Florent Geroux|
|Forever d'Oro||30-1||30-1||81||**||**||JP: Overcame plenty of trouble to beat maidens over this track last time, but this is a huge class hike.|
|by Medaglia d'Oro||MW: I think that was a fairly loaded maiden race he won. This is an entirely different deal, however.|
|Owner: Charles Fipke; Trainer: Dallas Stewart; Jockey: Jose Ortiz|
|Trojan Nation||30-1||50-1||93||16th, 63||**||JP: Got walloped about 100 yards after the start in Derby, lost position, but maiden needs career best.|
|by Street Cry||MW: Don't care for maidens running in Triple Crown races, and I know about Sir Barton 97 years ago.|
|Owner: Julie Gilbert & Aaron Sones; Trainer: Paddy Gallagher; Jockey: Aaron Gryder|
|Lani||20-1||20-1||94||9th, 87||5th, 94||JP: Has fan base and seems certain to get some play, but I thought he just passed tired ones at Pimlico.|
|by Tapit||MW: Might have also been helped by the slop in the Preakness, which he's not certain to catch again.|
|Owner: Koji Maeda; Trainer: Mikio Matsunaga; Jockey: Yutaka Take|
|Exaggerator||9-5||3-5||103||2nd, 101||1st, 101||JP: Has been in career-best form and appears to be coming up to another good effort. He's rock solid.|
|by Curlin||MW: Last three races were his best, but with great pace set ups. Pace won't be as fast for him this time.|
|Owner: Big Chief Racing, Head of Plains Partners, Rocker O Ranch, et al; Trainer: Keith Desormeaux.; Jockey: Kent Desormeaux|
|Brody's Cause||20-1||15-1||91||7th, 89||**||JP: Was bumped around at top of the lane in Derby, made fairly decent late run, but did not threaten.|
|by Giant's Causeway||MW: Even though he's a two-time Grade 1 winner, he hasn't run a race yet fast enough to win this.|
|Owner: Albaugh Family Stable; Trainer: Dale Romans; Jockey: Luis Saez|
|Creator||10-1||15-1||96||13th, 76||**||JP: Looked to be making nice run on turn in Derby when he was completely wiped out. Major player.|
|by Tapit||MW: My Derby pick remains my pick here. Was lengths ahead of Suddenbreakingnews when blocked.|
|Owner: WinStar Farm & Bobby Flay; Trainer: Steve Asmussen; Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.|
My pick is SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS, but if the track is sloppy, the winner will be EXAGGERATOR.
I wonder if the possible thunderstorm, Saturday, will miss the big race altogether or create another winning formula for team Exaggerator. The greatest likelihood of percipatation begins about an hour before
Post time. It's still a 50/50 chance.
Just two boxes for triples,supers; [11-12-13-4-3] and with 13 and 4 to lead the exactas plus WP for both . Desormeaux`s horse has the numbers but,,he could get beaten at the end by either 13 and 4.or at least i hope so.Veteran Mike Smith could make a big difference,,,
CREATOR was my pick in the Arkansas Derby and, thanks to GETTYSBURG, he won that one! CREATOR was my pick in the Kentucky Derby and, NO THANKS to MO TOM, he got blocked and came home way back. [SIDEBAR: I am so glad MO TOM is NOT in the Belmont! Look-out OHIO DERBY horses on June 25th, MO TOM is headed your way!].... Back to Belmont Business: CREATOR is, once again, my pick in the Belmont! I was elated to hear that GETTYSBURG will run in the Belmont Stakes! I hope GETTYSBURG runs in the Belmont Stakes like he did in the Arkansas Derby! Maybe GETTYSBURG will steal it! Awww...but if he doesn't then maybe...just maybe the silver, little train that could will come roaring up the rail and take it! GO CREATOR GO!
Hello Jay. I am sorry to see you need to get comments on the Belmont from Nick Zito. This guy is has been in the training game. He has all these well bred high priced horses in his barn and he gets so little out of them.