Ex­ag­ger­a­tor to face a dozen in Bel­mont

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – Jay Priv­man – David Gren­ing

By Jay Priv­man

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 sec­ond­largest 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, ’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.

Large fields for un­der­card

ELMONT, N.Y. – Thir­teen proved to be a lucky num­ber for the New York Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion when it came to this year’s Bel­mont Stakes card.

Not only did 13 en­ter the Bel­mont Stakes, but there were 13 en­trants each in the Grade 1 Met­ro­pol­i­tan Hand­i­cap, Grade 1 Just a Game, and Grade 2 Woody Stephens, three of the nine sup­port­ing stakes on Satur­day’s 13-race pro­gram at Bel­mont Park. The Grade 3 Jaipur In­vi­ta­tional drew 14.

The $1.25 mil­lion Met Mile drew a wildly com­pet­i­tive field of 13, with Frosted, the run­ner- up to Amer­i­can Pharoah in last year’s Bel­mont Stakes, made a tepid 7-2 morn­ing-line fa­vorite. Frosted, who drew post 5, is com­ing off a fifth-place fin­ish in the $10 mil­lion Dubai World Cup.

Kiaran Mclaugh­lin, the trainer of Frosted, said he opted to run in the Met Mile be­cause of the pres­tige of the race, and he’s hop­ing for a speed duel to de­velop so that Frosted can rally from off the pace.

Mclaugh­lin en­tered two oth­ers in the race – Mark­ing and Ta­markuz. Ta­markuz fin­ished fourth be­hind Honor Code in last year’s Met Mile.

Trainer Todd Pletcher also en­tered three in the race, led by Stan­ford, the winner of the Charles Town Clas­sic. He also has An­chor Down, the winner of the Westch­ester, and Blofeld, the winner of the Gulf­stream Park Hand­i­cap.

No­ble Bird, com­ing off a mon­ster per­for­mance in the Pim­lico Spe­cial, will turn back to a mile for this race. Also en­tered were El Kabeir, Don­worth, Up­start, Ami’s Flat­ter, Sloane Av­enue, and Cal­cu­la­tor.

Flintshire, a Group 1 or Grade 1 winner in three coun­tries, heads a field of 11 en­tered for the Grade 1, $1 mil­lion Manhattan Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Flintshire, who won the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga last year for Andre Fabre, will be mak­ing his first start for trainer Chad Brown, who re­ceived the horse in March. Brown en­tered three other horses in the field –Slum­ber and Big Blue Kit­ten, who ran one-two in this race last year, and Wake For­est, the winner of the Grade 1 Man o’ War ear­lier at this meet.

Flintshire will break from post 10, while Slum­ber and Wake For­est drew posts 2 and 3 and Big Blue Kit­ten drew post 5.

Oth­ers en­tered are World Ap­proval, Take the Stand, Iron­i­cus, Oath­keeper, Triple Threat, Grand Tito, and Divisidero.

The Grade 1, $700,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fil­lies drew only a field of six, but it in­cludes Ken­tucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia, Black-eyed Su­san winner Go Mag­gie Go, and Eight Belles Stakes winner Ca­rina Mia.

The field also in­cludes Off the Tracks, who was cross-en­tered in Fri­day’s Jersey Girl Stakes. By NYRA house rule, Off the Tracks will have to scratch from the Jersey Girl af­ter en­ter­ing in a race the fol­low­ing day.

Cathryn Sophia, trained by John Servis, is 5 for 6, in­clud­ing a 2 3/4-length vic­tory in the Ken­tucky Oaks. She will break from post 5.

Go Mag­gie Go fin­ished fourth in the Oaks and turned around two weeks later to win the Black-eyed Su­san. She drew post 6 in the Acorn.

Ca­rina Mia, who was ex­cluded from the Oaks due to a lack of qual­i­fy­ing points, won the Eight Belles by six lengths on May 6.

Poala Queen and For­ever Dar­ling com­plete the field.

Cu­ralina, last year’s Acorn winner, is one of five Grade 1 win­ners en­tered in Satur­day’s Grade 1, $1 mil­lion Ogden Phipps Stakes for fil­lies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

Cu­ralina is com­ing off a 7 1/2-length vic­tory in the Grade 1 La Troienne, in which she beat, among oth­ers, Sheer Drama, who is back in this field. Cu­ralina drew post 5, while Sheer Drama will break from post 7.

Stopcharg­ing­maria, last year’s Breed­ers’ Cup Distaff winner, was beaten a neck by Sheer Drama in the Grade 1 Madi­son on April 9, her only start this year.

Ca­vort­ing, com­ing off a mon­ster win in the Grade 2 Ruf­fian, and For­ever Un­bri­dled, the winner of the Grade 1 Ap­ple Blos­som last out, are the other Grade 1 win­ners in the field.

Car­rumba, a Grade 3 winner, and the seem­ingly mis­placed Desert Val­ley com­plete the Phipps field.

With fe­male turf cham­pion Tepin safely bed­ded down in Eng­land, a full field of 14 was en­tered for Satur­day’s Grade 1, $700,000 Just a Game Stakes at a mile.

Tepin won this race last year and hasn’t lost since, in­clud­ing a vic­tory in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile.

Rainha Da Ba­te­ria, who fin­ished se­cond to Tepin that day, is one of two Chad Brown run­ners en­tered in this year’s Just a Game. Brown also en­tered Mrs Mc­dou­gal, the winner of the Plenty of Grace Stakes in her last start. Mrs Mc­dou­gal de­feated Strike Charmer, who came back to win the Grade 3 Beau­gay on May 14. Strike Charmer is back in this field.

The Just a Game field in­cludes Ce­les­tine, Lady Lara, and My Miss Sophia from the Bill Mott barn; La Berma and Prize Ex­hibit for Cal­i­for­ni­abased con­di­tioner James Cas­sidy; Re­cepta, Fau­filer, Ir­ish Rookie, and Lexie Lou.

Trainer Bob Baf­fert won’t be par­tic­i­pat­ing in this year’s Bel­mont Stakes, but he has two bul­lets to fire on the un­der­card in Justin Squared in the Grade 2, $500,000 Woody Stephens and Cupid in the $150,000 Easy Goer.

In the Woody Stephens, at seven fur­longs, Baf­fert sends out the un­de­feated Justin Squared, who is com­ing off a win in the Chick Lang Stakes at Pim­lico. He will face Sharp Azteca, who comes off a 2 1/2-length vic­tory in the Pat Day Mile, and 11 oth­ers, in­clud­ing I Will Score and Mrazek, the one-two fin­ish­ers in the Grade 3 Laz Bar­rera at Santa Anita.

In the Easy Goer, Baf­fert sends out Cupid, the winner of the Grade 2 Rebel who fin­ished 10th in the Arkansas Derby and came out of that raced need­ing throat surgery. Cupid will only face four ri­vals in the Easy Goer – Race Me Home, Rally Cry, Hit It Once More, and Eco­nomic Model. In other stakes:

Rocket Heat, the winner of the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint, drew post 6 in a 14-horse field en­tered in the Grade 3, $300,000 Jaipur In­vi­ta­tional.

Kid Cruz, the winner of the Grade 3 Ex­cel­sior last out, drew post 7 in a field of 10 en­tered in the Grade 2, $400,000 Brook­lyn In­vi­ta­tional.

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