05/18/2014 10:12AM

Ride on Curlin, Social Inclusion set sights on Belmont Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
After finishing 1 1/2 lengths back in second in Saturday's Preakness, Ride on Curlin's connections will point the horse toward the Belmont Stakes.

BALTIMORE – As Ride On Curlin walked behind California Chrome in the shed row of the Pimlico stakes barn Sunday morning, the irony of his place in the pecking order was not lost on trainer Billy Gowan.

“We’re still following him,” Gowan said as he led his Ride On Curlin in circles behind assistant trainer Alan Sherman and California Chrome.
Ride On Curlin chased California Chrome through the stretch of Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, having to settle for second-place, 1 1/2 lengths behind the Kentucky Derby winner.

On Tuesday morning, Ride On Curlin will follow California Chrome to Belmont Park, where both will be pointed to the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 7 – California Chrome trying to make history by becoming the sport’s 12th Triple Crown winner, and Ride On Curlin trying to prevent it.

“I followed him around there yesterday. I’m going to follow him to New York,” Gowan said.

“I think my horse will like the mile and a half,” Gowan added, referring to the distance of the Belmont Stakes. “I hate to say it, but I think Chrome might like it too.”

Gowan was thrilled with the way Ride On Curlin ran in the Preakness, validating his decision to run back after a troubled seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Ride on Curlin, under Joel Rosario, raced four wide in the stretch and, for a brief moment, gave Gowan a thought he could catch California Chrome.

“I thought at the eighth pole, we might have a shot at getting to him, but old Chrome didn’t come back to me any,” Gowan said. “Chrome’s got a lot of gears, but my horse ran huge.”

Gowan may have to find another rider for Ride On Curlin for the Belmont. Rosario rode Tonalist to a visually impressive victory May 10 in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, and he very well could wind up choosing that horse to ride. Gowan went to Rosario for the Preakness because he didn’t like the ride Calvin Borel gave his horse in the Kentucky Derby.

While he naturally would like to have Rosario, Gowan said, “It’s not that big of a deal.”

Gowan said he already has received calls from jockey agents, including Angel Cordero, who represents John Velazquez, winner of the 2012 Belmont Stakes on Union Rags and the 2007 Belmont on Rags to Riches.

Ride On Curlin finished second in the Preakness, 6 1/2 lengths ahead of Social Inclusion, who was making just his fourth start. Social Inclusion got very hot and washy near post time, and he was unsettled in the gate, nearly flipping. Still, his connections were pleased with the colt’s third-place finish.

“He didn’t break well. He hit the gate at the break,” Sanchez said. “We are satisfied and happy. The horse is healthy. That’s horse racing. You got to deal with winning and losing.”

Though Sanchez believes California Chrome “has the biggest shot to win the Triple Crown in the last 25 years,” he said he plans to run Social Inclusion against him in the Belmont.

“We’re going to New York to run in the Belmont,” Sanchez said. “We definitely have to work with him at the gate.”

Sanchez said Social Inclusion would likely stay at Pimlico until the weekend before shipping to New York.

Sanchez said he may make a rider change as well. Luis Contreras has ridden Social Inclusion in all four of his starts. Sanchez said he will sit down and talk with trainer Manny Azpurua about jockeys.

“We are doing to discuss that and work it out,” Sanchez said. “We will see what choices we have.”

Ring Weekend, fifth in the Preakness, is a possibility for the Belmont, trainer Graham Motion said Sunday. Motion felt with a better trip, Ring Weekend could have finished a little closer.

“I think he’s going to be a useful horse the rest of the year,” Motion said. “Whether it would make sense to do it is questionable.”

Kid Cruz, seventh in the Preakness, left Baltimore before 6 a.m. to return to Belmont Park and point for the Belmont Stakes, according to trainer Linda Rice.

Others expected to run in the Belmont include Commanding Curve, Danza, Wicked Strong, and Samraat – the second- through fifth-place finishers in the Derby – as well as Tonalist, Commissioner, and Intense Holiday.

On Sunday, Samraat worked four furlongs in 48.84 seconds at Aqueduct.