06/07/2017 12:26PM

Freshness key factor for four new shooters in Belmont Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Twisted Tom is 3 for 3 since adding blinkers in January.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Fresh horses can be dangerous horses.

Epicharis, Hollywood Handsome, Meantime, and Twisted Tom are the new shooters Saturday in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes. Each is making his first start in a Triple Crown race, against horses who have been battling it out in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness, or both, as is the case with Lookin At Lee.

“Sometimes a fresh horse is good this time of year going into these sort of races,” said Brian Lynch, who trains Meantime.

Chad Brown, the Belmont-based trainer of Twisted Tom, had success with a new shooter last month in the Preakness, where Cloud Computing won by a head over champion Classic Empire. Brown said there were a couple of reasons to target the Belmont Stakes with the two-time stakes winner Twisted Tom, who was a $75,000 supplement to the 1 1/2-mile classic by owner Cobra Farm Inc.

“We think the horse deserves a chance,” Brown said. “The race is a rare opportunity to run a mile and a half, and we feel the horse wants to go that far. It’s a gamble. Sometimes in this game, you’ve got to take a chance. The horse is training well enough to warrant that chance.”

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Twisted Tom has won his last three starts, with each a progression in distance. He won a New York-bred allowance at a mile on the inner track at Aqueduct in his 3-year-old debut Jan. 28. Twisted Tom then accounted for back-to-back stakes at Laurel, taking the $100,000 Private Terms at about 1 1/16 miles on March 18 and the $123,000 Federico Tesio at 1 1/8 miles in the slop in his last start April 22.

“He’s a determined horse,” Brown said. “In his races, he’s very competitive. He continues to improve.”

Javier Castellano, who rode Cloud Computing, will be aboard Twisted Tom, who has won races from both on and well off the pace. Twisted Tom is a son of Grade 1 Norfolk winner Creative Cause and is 3 for 3 since adding blinkers for the January allowance at Aqueduct. He earned his best Beyer Speed Figure, a 78, in the Tesio.

Meantime owns the best Beyer among the new shooters, a 91 for his runner-up finish to the undefeated Timeline in the Grade 3 Peter Pan in his last start May 13. Meantime finished 3 1/2 lengths back after setting the pace in the 1 1/8-mile race run in the slop at Belmont.

“I thought it was a credible effort,” Lynch said. “I think the horse that beat him, probably we’ll find out, goes on to be a very good horse. I hadn’t done much with [Meantime] between his maiden win and the Peter Pan, just sort of used it as a gauge to get to where we are now.”

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But the company line is not the reason Meantime has been pointed for the Belmont Stakes. Lynch, who trains the horse for Silverton Hill, is hopeful that he could have a tactical advantage Saturday.

“I think there’s a lack of speed in the race,” he said, “and maybe he’s a horse that could be prominently placed, and if he was to get left alone, he acts like he could probably get over that sort of ground.”

Meantime has made four starts, with his maiden win coming on a wet track at Keeneland on April 22. He won the 1 1/8-mile race that was open to older rivals by 7 1/2 lengths. Meantime did not launch his career until February, when second in a Gulfstream maiden race won by Belmont Stakes starter Patch.

“We had him ready as a 2-year-old, and he came up with some bone bruising, so we gave him some time off,” Lynch said. “So, he’s sort of come to himself later in the spring, and we look forward to a good summer with him.

“Physically, he’s a beautiful, big type, every bit of 17 hands.”

Meantime is by Preakness winner Shackleford, and his dam, Livermore Leslie, produced the three-time Grade 1 winner Sweet Reason. Mike Smith has the mount on Meantime.

Trainer Dallas Stewart said he long has thought well of Hollywood Handsome, a Tapizar colt who enters the Belmont Stakes off a first-level allowance win going 1 1/16 miles on May 14 at Churchill Downs. Earlier in the year, the horse ran fifth in the Illinois Derby and fourth in the Louisiana Derby.

“In the Louisiana Derby, he just got beat a nose for third,” Stewart said. “A little bit more ground could have helped him.”

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Stewart trains Hollywood Handsome for Mark and Nancy Stanley. The horse flew in Tuesday.

“He’s a very calm, relaxed type of horse,” Stewart said of Hollywood Handsome, who used stalking tactics in his allowance win at Churchill.

Florent Geroux has the mount Saturday.

Epicharis is a Japanese-bred grandson of Sunday Silence who launched his career last August with a maiden win at about 1 1/8 miles at Niigata Racecourse. The multiple stakes winner won three more times in his native Japan before finishing second by a nose in the Group 2 UAE Derby in his most recent start March 25 at Meydan. Christophe Lemaire, who has been aboard for all off the horse’s races, has the mount for U. Carrot Farm and trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara.