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THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2015

Triple Crown News & Notes

American Pharoah jogs; Conquest Curlinate withdrawn from Belmont consideration

American Pharoah (left) jogged one day after breezing a half-mile under the Twin Spires (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness S. (G1) winner American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) returned to the Churchill Downs track Thursday morning for a once-around clockwise jog on the one-mile oval. The three-year-old, preparing for a sweep of the Triple Crown in the 147th running of the $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1) on June 6, walked around Barn 33 on Wednesday after breezing a half-mile in :48 the day before.

"He felt great, no different," exercise rider Jorge Alvarez said. "He's a running machine; all he wants to do is run. When we go to a different track, nothing changes. He doesn't have to take his racetrack with him. He'll run on anything."

Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, was also pleased with how Zayat Stables' homebred three-year-old jogged during Churchill Downs' special 8:30-8:45 a.m. (EDT) training session exclusive to Belmont Stakes contenders.

"From what we saw I thought he looked very good," said Barnes, who rode Baffert's pony Smokey alongside American Pharoah during the exercise. "He jogged almost every step of the way and felt strong. He looked super good. I've been asked just about every question so far except for the big one: 'Can he do it?' and I think that he can."

Barnes said American Pharoah is scheduled to resume galloping Friday at 8:30 a.m.

Baffert, who was in town for Tuesday's workout, is scheduled to return to Louisville, Kentucky, from his Southern California base on Saturday night. Baffert said Tuesday that American Pharoah could work Sunday or Monday. Barnes speculated on Thursday that Sunday at 8:30 a.m. is the more likely of the two options.

Peter Pan S. (G2) runner-up Conquest Curlinate (Curlin) has been withdrawn from Belmont Stakes consideration. Norman Casse, assistant to father and trainer, Mark Casse, said that the horse did not have high energy on Thursday morning and simply wasn't training in his normal manner.

"It isn't a soundness issue," Norman Casse said. "He just wasn't training the way that we wanted him."

The Ontario-bred will instead be pointed to the C$1 million Queen's Plate on July 5, a race that his Grade 1-placed stablemate Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon), fifth in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness, is also targeting that 10-furlong affair.

Keen Ice is one of 10 possible entrants in the Belmont Stakes (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
Keen Ice (Curlin), who breezed six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 on Wednesday, walked around the shed row of trainer Dale Romans' barn on Thursday.

The possible 10-horse Belmont Stakes lineup (with jockey and trainer) currently stands at American Pharoah (Victor Espinoza, Baffert); Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) (TBA, Todd Pletcher); Frammento (Midshipman) (Mike Smith, Nick Zito); Frosted (Tapit) (Joel Rosario, Kiaran McLaughlin); Keen Ice (Kent Desormeaux, Romans); Madefromlucky (Lookin at Lucky) (TBA, Pletcher); Materiality (Afleet Alex) (TBA, Pletcher); Mubtaahij (Dubawi) (Irad Ortiz Jr., Mike de Kock); Tale of Verve (Tale of Ekati) (Gary Stevens, Dallas Stewart); and The Truth or Else (Yes It's True) (Edgar Prado, Kenny McPeek).

In other Belmont Stakes news:

With Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah and three other Belmont Stakes contenders stabled on the grounds, Churchill is offering a special 8:30-8:45 a.m. training period for those horses through Tuesday. Additionally, area horse racing fans are invited to watch those colts train from the first floor of the facility, including the new Courtyard area, free of charge.

Churchill Downs will open its Gate 17 entrance between 8-9 a.m. each morning through Tuesday so the public can watch American Pharoah and his rivals prepare for the 1 1/2-mile third jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown.

Churchill Downs' concessionaire Levy Restaurants will have coffee, juice, soda, water and doughnuts available for purchase near the Aristides Garden. Also, video of the exercises will be shown on the Big Board and infield video screens.

Those unable to attend can watch an online live stream of the daily exercises at http://www.kentuckyderby.com/workouts/live from 8:30-8:45 a.m. through Tuesday. Also, clips of the activity will be uploaded on the Kentucky Derby YouTube channel. A graphic with each horse's name will appear on the screen with the corresponding horse, although a majority of the focus will be on American Pharaoh.

Churchill has a special box seat package for the June 6 Belmont Stakes simulcast. For $24, fans can get an undercover box seat, official program, a domestic beer or souvenir soda and a custom, limited-edition Kentucky Derby 141 T-Shirt that features a victorious American Pharaoh. Fans can purchase the package by visiting the online box office.

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The Truth or Else joins Belmont fray; Pletcher trio, Frosted to work Friday

The Truth or Else is two-for-three over the Belmont main track (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Trainer Kenny McPeek, who upset War Emblem's bid for a Triple Crown with Sarava in 2002, said Thursday morning that he will more than likely point The Truth or Else (Yes It's True) toward the $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1) on June 6.

The Truth or Else, who had picked up 11 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby earlier this year, is coming out of a 1 1/2-length allowance victory over the local track on May 22, which, according to McPeek, was a major deciding factor heading into the Belmont S., in which American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) will be bidding to become racing's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

"My horse loves the Belmont track," McPeek said. "He has two starts and two wins on a dry track at Belmont. And he's out of a Colonial Affair mare (multiple Grade 3 scorer Lakenheath) so he should get the distance. His last race was a confidence builder. He got a good time and an excellent speed figure. His last two races have set him up for this. He really needed to win his last race, which he did."

The chestnut is owned in partnership with McPeek and New Jersey natives Harold and Helen Lerner.

"The owners are from the area, which makes the race even more special," he added.

McPeek also trained Atigun, who finished third in the 2012 edition; Unstoppable U, sixth in 2012; Frac Daddy, 14th in 2013, and Pineaff, ninth in 1999.

"He's just a really solid horse," McPeek said. "The Truth or Else is bigger and stronger than both Sarava and Atigun. Weird things happen in the Belmont. You shouldn't duck one horse in a race. American Pharoah could possibly not handle the surface. You don't know. So long as it's a dry track, we'll pull the trigger."

McPeek said that two-time Belmont S. winner and Hall of Famer Edgar Prado will have the mount.

The field for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont S. is hovering at 10. On Thursday, trainer Mark Casse said Conquest Curlinate (Curlin), who is stabled at Churchill Downs, would not run in the Belmont. Conquest Curlinate was not nominated to the Triple Crown and would have had to be supplemented to the Belmont for $75,000. He will be pointed instead to the Queen's Plate.

American Pharoah is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park on Tuesday, along with fellow Belmont contender Keen Ice (Curlin). Coming down from Saratoga Race Course will be Frammento (Midshipman), trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, who won the Belmont in 2004 with Birdstone and again in 2008 with Da' Tara, both times upsetting Triple Crown hopefuls.

Scheduled to breeze Friday morning for their upcoming roles in the "Test of the Champion" are the Todd Pletcher trio of Madefromlucky (Lookin at Lucky), Materiality (Afleet Alex) and Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway); the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Frosted (Tapit); and Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve (Tale of Ekati) for trainer Dallas Stewart.

Mubtaahij (Dubawi) is set to work once more this weekend before galloping up to the race.

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Mubtaahij blows out three furlongs for Belmont

Mubtaahij (left) and Umgiyo (right) have traveled all over the world together (NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Trainer Mike de Kock's Belmont S. (G1) hopeful Mubtaahij (Dubawi) continued to keep busy Wednesday morning with his fourth timed workout since arriving at Belmont Park on May 15.

Piloted for the first time by Irad Ortiz Jr., who has been named to ride in the $1.5 million "Test of the Champion" on June 6, Mubtaahij visited the main track shortly after the renovation break and worked an easy half-mile as planned, picking up the pace at the three-eighths pole, according to de Kock's assistant trainer, Trevor Brown.

"He went well," Brown said. "He basically did exactly what we wanted him to. The important thing was just getting the jockey on him to give him a chance to get accustomed to the horse and get to know him. Irad was pretty happy with the horse. He said he's ready."

Mubtaahij got an official time of :38 for three furlongs, the fifth-fastest of seven at the distance. The Irish-bred U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G1) winner will very likely make another appearance on the worktab in the remaining 10 days until the Belmont Stakes.

"I speak to Mike every day and he tells me what he wants from the horse, obviously gauging from his well-being and how he's eating," Brown explained. "And (Mubtaahij) doesn't stop eating. If they're eating, they'll work. Mike isn't shy to work horses."

Mubtaahij's Australian-bred stablemate Umgiyo (Danehill Dancer) also took to the track on Wednesday for a little light training.

"He just had a jog around the track today so it was an easy day for him," Brown remarked. "He's doing very good. He'll probably work sometime this weekend."

The five-year-old gelding is under consideration for either the $1 million Manhattan S. (G1) or $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

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Racing Headlines

Lady Eli aims to stay perfect in Wonder Again

Lady Eli is prepping for the July 4 Belmont Oaks (Coady Photography)
Undefeated Grade 1 star Lady Eli (Divine Park) towers over the field in Sunday's $200,000 Wonder Again S. at Belmont Park, the designed prep for the $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) on July 4. While her opponents include such promising turf fillies as Miss Chatelaine (Pulpit), Pine Needles (Giant's Causeway), Heath (Pulpit) and Itsonlyactingdad (Giant's Causeway), as well as alumnae from the Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail in Puca (Big Brown) and Pangburn (Congrats), they all need to step up their game considerably to trouble the undisputed head of the class.

Lady Eli's only close scrape came in her debut, when she overcame a world of trouble to get up by a nose. Since then, the Chad Brown filly has dispatched her foes with consummate ease. After rallying to a three-length decision in last September's Miss Grillo (G3) here, Lady Eli dismantled an international cast in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Santa Anita. She picked up right where she left off with another convincing display in the April 12 Appalachian (G3) at Keeneland, and seeks to run up her score to 5-0 on Sunday. Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. should carve out another stalk-and-pounce trip from post 7.

Her rivals hope that Lady Eli's finishing burst won't be quite so potent over 1 1/8 miles. Four are already proven at this distance (or beyond) on turf -- Heath, Pine Needles, Itsonlyactingdad and My Sweet Girl (Bernardini) -- while Puca has experience at this trip on dirt.

Heath, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner and Gulfstream track record-setter Lea (First Samurai), has won two straight for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider homebred booked her ticket to stakes company by storming 3 1/4 lengths clear in a 1 3/16-mile Keeneland turf allowance. The improving chestnut keeps Jose Lezcano aboard.

Mott also sends out Puca, the runner-up in the April 4 Gazelle (G2) who was a disappointing 12th in the May 1 Kentucky Oaks. As a half-sister to current Grade 1-winning millionaire Finnegans Wake (Powerscourt), however, Puca could enjoy a surface switch. The Donegal Racing runner has tried turf only once, finishing third as a juvenile -- in the same Saratoga maiden won by Lady Eli.

Trainer Christophe Clement likewise has two chances in Miss Chatelaine and Pine Needles. Miss Chatelaine brings a perfect two-for-two record, but has not raced since capturing the Chelsea Flower here last October. She adds Lasix for this sophomore bow, and her first start beyond a mile.

Pine Needles is a neck away from being unbeaten herself. Successful in her first two outings at Gulfstream this winter, Pine Needles was a troubled second, beaten a scant neck by Consumer Credit (More Than Ready), in the April 23 Memories of Silver at Aqueduct. Out of Italian classic queen Meridiana (Lomitas), she is a full sister to Grade 1-placed turf performer Center Divider and a half-sister to Chamois (Smart Strike).

The Todd Pletcher-trained Itsonlyactingdad steps up in class off a Gulfstream maiden score and a game decision in a Keeneland allowance. My Sweet Girl (Bernardini), a close third to Pine Needles at Gulfstream two back, was a fast-finishing third in a 1 3/16-mile turf allowance at Keeneland. The half-sister to Grade 2 heroine Caroline Thomas (Giant's Causeway) out of Grade 1 vixen Bit of Whimsy (Distorted Humor), should have more to offer for Barclay Tagg.

Pangburn reverts to turf for the first time since her debut victory at Ellis Park last summer. The Ken McPeek trainee subsequently paid her way on the dirt. Second in the Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill, Pangburn went on to have a useful Oaklawn meet, with an allowance score, a third in the March 7 Honeybee (G3) and a fourth in the April 4 Fantasy (G3). She picks up Jose Ortiz for this assignment, but note that she's cross-entered to Saturday's $150,000 Penn Oaks.

Rounding out the field is the main-track-only Doinwhatshelikes (Include).

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NYRA releases likely stakes fields for Thursday, Friday of Belmont week

Fields are beginning to take shape for the first two days of the inaugural Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which will feature seven stakes races worth a total of $1.6 million on Thursday, June 4 and Friday, June 5 at Belmont.

The $250,000 Astoria for two-year-old fillies and $150,000 Intercontinental for older fillies and mares on turf kicks off the stakes action on Thursday for the three-day event.

The 5 1/2-furlong Astoria is likely to feature a field of precocious fillies, including Decked Out (Street Boss), Fleet Grey (Too Much Bling), Little Cherie (Pleasantly Perfect), One Minute (Run Away and Hide) and Tonasah (Malibu Moon).

In the Intercontinental, Zindaya (More Than Ready) heads the probable field coming off a convincing score in the License Fee S. on May 1 at Belmont. The four-year-old is two-for-two over the local turf for trainer Christophe Clement and Regis Racing.

Also likely for the race are A Little Bit Sassy (More Than Ready), a stakes winner on turf for trainer Michael Matz and Ramona Bass; Baffle Me (First Samurai), winner of the Powder Break S. at Gulfstream Park last out; Believe in Charlie (Indian Charlie), fifth in the License Fee; Dauphine Russe (Russian Blue), third in the License Fee; Devilish Love (Not for Love), runner-up in the License Fee; Kune Kune (Sir Percy), who has not raced since November for owner/trainer James Nicol; Radiator (Dubawi), sixth in the Beaugay (G3) at Belmont in her most recent outing; and Water Hole, 12th in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) in her North American debut for trainer Chad Brown.

On Friday, the $250,000 True North (G2) for older sprinters gets top billing. The probable field for the race includes multiple Grade 1 winners Dads Caps (Discreet Cat) and Palace (City Zip), budding superstar Rock Fall (Speightstown), and Belmont seven-furlong track-record holder Clearly Now (Horse Greeley).

Also likely to participate are Eastwood (Speightstown), winner of two straight for trainer Todd Pletcher; the speedy Favorite Tale (Tale of the Cat); and Stallwalkin' Dude (City Place), who capped a four-race win streak by taking the Diablo S. in his latest start. Multiple stakes winner Gentlemen's Bet (Half Ours) is a possibility, as well.

Friday's $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational at two miles on the turf will field at least eight, including the Phipps Stable's Reflecting (Elusive Quality), who came off a three-month layoff to finish a close-up second in a May 8 allowance at Pimlico. Expected to start as well are Comes the Dream (Lion Heart), second in his 2015 debut; Diplomat (Kitten's Joy), winner of the Carolina Cup Hurdle two back; Dynamic Sky (Sky Mesa), winner of last year's Red Smith H. (G3); Innovation Economy (Dynaformer), making his first stakes start; Manchurian High (The Daddy), eighth in the Dixie H. (G2) at Pimlico; Excelsior (G3) runner-up Red Rifle (Giant's Causeway); and Unitarian (Pulpit), third in the Elkhorn (G2).

Also on the day's card is the $150,000 Jersey Girl Stakes for three-year-old fillies going six furlongs, featuring noted probables Enchantress (Malibu Moon) and Noble and a Beauty (Noble Causeway).

Enchantress will represent Pletcher in her return to the races after finishing 12th in the Davona Dale S. (G2) last February at Gulfstream Park, while Rick Violette Jr. plans to send Cicada S. winner Noble and a Beauty, following her sixth-place finish in the Gazelle (G2) on April 4 at Aqueduct. Also in consideration for the Jersey Girl are Cavorting (Bernardini) for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, Coco's Wildcat (Wildcat Heir) for Kathleen O'Connell, So You Say (Flatter) for Michelle Nevin and Spark (Speightstown) from the barn of Jimmy Jerkens.

Friday will also host the return of multiple Grade 1 winner Stephanie's Kitten (Kitten's Joy) in the $300,000 New York H. (G2) at 1 1/4 miles for older fillies and mares on turf. Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred multimillionaire has faced rivals in the last two runnings of the Just a Game S. (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard and boasts a record of two wins from three starts at Belmont for trainer Brown.

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Miss Temple City on schedule for Royal Ascot

Miss Temple City is on course for the Coronation at Royal Ascot next month (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)
Trainer Graham Motion said Miss Temple City, winner of the May 15 Hilltop S. at Pimlico, is on schedule to ship to England for the June 19 Coronation S. (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot.

"I've always wanted another opportunity to go back over there," said Motion, who saddled Kentucky Derby (G1) and Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) winner Animal Kingdom to an 11th-place finish in the 2013 Queen Anne S. (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot.

"I love the fact she can go over there and run against three-year-olds and not open company, which is hard to do. I like that she can run against three-year-olds, go a mile, which we know she can do, and she's a filly who has never run on Lasix and that's a big fact, too."

Miss Temple City, who won the Hilltop by 2 3/4 lengths, finished third in the Sweetest Chant S. (G3) at Gulfstream in January and second in the Appalachian S. (G3) at Keeneland in April. Motion said he's also looking forward to running at Royal Ascot because he won't have to run against undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and Appalachian winner Lady Eli (Divine Park), who "looks awfully good, and if (Miss Temple City) stays here she has to run with her."

Motion said he'll likely work Miss Temple City at Fair Hill once before leaving.

"My inclination would be to give her a work before she left, probably over the steeplechase course," the horseman explained. "As long as the ground is all right, I want to give her a nice work under similar circumstances that she's going to have to deal with over there. Fair Hill has that. The steeplechase course, the last quarter of a mile, is uphill. I think it's a perfect scenario for her to get some experience for that.

"So that's my idea, to gallop her there once or twice and then breeze her before she leaves."

Motion also said Donworth (Tiznow), the beaten favorite when third in the May 16 Sir Barton S. at Pimlico, will likely run in the $150,000 Easy Goer S. on Belmont Stakes Day, June 6.

"All the handicappers and everyone tell me he ran his race and he was just up against the inside speed bias," Motion stated. "I think it's a fair comment to say that in retrospect. I'm not as disappointed two weeks later than I was on the day of. I think he ran his race and he was beaten by a nice horse, and he came out of the race well.

"He's such a big horse that he has trouble getting away from the gate and trouble getting around tighter turns. It's always been an issue. I think the wider turns at Belmont should help him."

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Corrales enjoyed Preakness experience with Bodhisattva, now targeting Ohio Derby

Bodhisattva is targeting the lucrative Ohio Derby (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)
Despite watching his three-year-old colt Bodhisattva (Student Council) finish eighth and last in the May 16 Preakness S. (G1) at Pimlico, trainer Jose Corrales wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

"The experience? I cannot buy it again," he said. "It was the greatest experience."

Bodhisattva, who went into the Preakness off an April 18 victory in the Federico Tesio S., was fifth after the opening quarter-mile of the Preakness but steadily dropped back.

"Whatever happened that day with the rain, the lightening, the crowd...you can't prepare for that," Corrales shrugged. "I think my horse just got so distracted. Going into the race, I thought my horse was in the best shape, and best form.

"Did I expect him to run that badly? No, but you can't control Mother Nature."

Corrales gave credit to jockey Victor Espinoza for not taking winner American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) off the lead. Corrales believes as soon as Bodhisattva got dirt in his face, "he never came back again."

Bodhisattva came out of the Preakness in good shape, Corrales added, and is being pointed toward the $500,000 Ohio Derby on June 9 at Thistledown and the $75,000 Manitoba Derby on August 3 at Assiniboia Downs.

"I was (in Manitoba) last year and had a really good experience," Corrales noted. "A lot of people don't want to take a chance to go to a small place like that."

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Be Bullish arrives at Old Friends Cabin Creek in New York

Be Bullish captured six stakes, including last year's Hollie Hughes, in his career and placed in 16 others (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Old Friends at Cabin Creek -- the New York satellite of Georgetown, Kentucky's Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center -- announced the arrival of multiple stakes-winning millionaire Be Bullish (Pure Prize) on Thursday.

The New York-bred gelding, who turned 10 this year, celebrated his 19th win on May 17 when he won a $16,000 claiming race at Belmont Park. It was his 87th career start in his ninth season of racing.

Following his win Be Bullish was claimed by prominent owner Mike Repole, who purchased the horse with the sole intent of retiring him from racing.

New owner Repole noted that Be Bullish "has put in his time, he's going out on top, he's going out in the winner's circle. If every horse could have an ending like this, the sport would be in a much better place."

Be Bullish, who retires with $1,106,288 in earnings from an 87-19-26-14 career mark, will live out his post-racing days at Old Friends Cabin Creek near Saratoga, which is also home to Repole retiree Cool N' Collective.

"Our thanks to Mike Repole for giving this New York favorite the retirement he deserves," said JoAnn Pepper, owner and manager of Old Friends at Cabin Creek. "Be Bullish gave his all to racing. We're very grateful to have him, and we look forward to his all of his fans visiting him at the farm."

Old Friends at Cabin Creek is open for tours Saturdays from noon-3 p.m. (EDT). For more information, please visit their website at www.oldfriendsatcabincreek.com.

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for 150 retired racehorses. It's Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, is open to tourists daily by appointment. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at 502-863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

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Treve returns in Prix Corrida

The road to a third Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) for France's wonder mare Treve (Motivator) starts at Saint-Cloud Friday, where the Prix Corrida (Fr-G2) takes on vastly increased significance. Honoring the memory of the only other mare in history to win two renewals of Longchamp's showpiece, this race serves as a stepping stone for the Criquette Head-Maarek star to the June 28 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Fr-G1), which was also won by the famous Corrida 80 years ago.

Al Shaqab's five-year-old was the subject of a positive bulletin from the owners' racing manager Harry Herbert as he spoke on Thursday.

"Treve is in fantastic form. I saw her last week and she looked absolutely terrific," he said. "She's fuller than she was last year and is moving beautifully, seeming to have retained all her old zest. Provided she's straight enough and she's done enough work-wise, which I'm sure she has, hopefully she'll give a really good account of herself."

Herbert believes that Treve, who is saddled with a penalty for her latest emphatic Arc victory, is at more of a peak than when second on her return in the Prix Ganay (Fr-G1) in 2014.

"It's wonderful having her for this attempt for a third Arc," he continued. "Everything that goes on at this time of year is a bonus, as she's a proper autumn filly. It seems to be that she thrives later on in the year but, I have to say, there is a different look about her right now than perhaps I saw in the spring of last year.

"She had a little back issue and some foot issues then, but she seems really well and the way she's moving and striding out is impressive. I know Thierry Jarnet couldn't have been happier with her the other day and was all smiles. She's a remarkable racehorse and it's just so exciting for everybody to see her back on the track.

"At the moment, it's a four-race campaign -- the Corrida, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, Prix Vermeille ([Fr-G1] at Longchamp September 13) and then the Arc (October 4)."

Also saddled with a penalty is George Strawbridge's 2014 Prix de l'Opera (Fr-G1) heroine We Are (Dansili), who was a touch disappointing on her return when fourth behind Cirrus des Aigles (Even Top) and Al Kazeem (Dubawi) in Longchamp's Prix Ganay over 10 1/2 furlongs  May 3, and also last year's Preis der Diana (Ger-G1) winner Feodora (Lord of England). Now switched from Andre Fabre from Andreas Wohler, Gestut Etzean's homebred was last seen finishing fourth in Munich's Grosser Preis von Bayern (Ger-G1) after being a close-up fifth behind We Are in the Opera.

Treve's presence has hardly scared away the opposition, with last year's Prix Gontaut-Biron (Fr-G3) and Grand Prix de Deauville (Fr-G2) scorer Cocktail Queen (Motivator) and the April 27 Prix Allez France (Fr-G3) winner Mayhem (Whipper) also lining up for the challenge.

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Work All Week back in the Aristides

A six-time stakes winner, Work All Week owns an 11-9-2-0 record at six furlongs (Keeneland/Coady Photography)
Unraced since a half-length tally in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1), champion sprinter Work All Week (City Zip) will launch his six-year-old campaign in Saturday's $100,000 Aristides (G3) at Churchill Downs. The Roger Brueggemann-trained gelding will face six rivals in the six-furlong test from his outside post and Florent Geroux retains the mount.

A winner in nine of his last 10 starts, the Illinois-bred Work All Week recorded his first Grade 1 triumph in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita, scoring by a half-length as a 19-1 longshot, and netted a 104 BRIS Speed rating. His Speed figures ran as high as 106 last season and the chestnut will be making his first appearance at Churchill Downs in the Aristides, which is named in honor of the first Kentucky Derby winner.

Alsvid (Officer) looms as a dangerous challenger following his win in the Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) at Oaklawn Park. Trained by Chris Hartman, the six-year-old gelding registered a career-best 106 Speed rating scoring by nearly a length last time and Chris Landeros will be back aboard the early presser. A nine-time winner at the distance, the Kentucky-bred Alsvid will also be making his start under the Twin Spires.

Grade 2 winner Nates Mineshaft (Mineshaft) enters on the upswing for Anne Smith, posting a runner-up finish against a deep field in the Churchill Downs S. (G2), and the eight-year-old will be piloted by Rafael Mojica Jr. Multiple stakes hero Gentlemen's Bet (Half Ours), third in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Sprint, also merits respect following a fourth in the Churchill Downs. Ricardo Santana Jr. has the mount for Ron Moquett.

The Pizza Man, who likes to race on or close to the early lead, recorded three stakes wins last season (Four Footed Fotos)
Good Lord (Greatness), Googleado (Southern Halo) and Viva Majorca (Tiago) complete the field.

One race after the Aristides, 10 older horses will contest the $65,000 Opening Verse at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Departing (War Front), unraced since a seventh in the Clark H. (G1) last November, is scheduled to make his turf debut for trainer Al Stall Jr. with regular rider Robby Albarado.

The five-year-old gelding will meet a nice group of challengers that includes The Pizza Man (English Channel), winner of the American St. Leger and Stars and Stripes (G3) last season. Conditioned by Brueggemann, the Illinois-bred gelding will make his first start since a close third in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) last November. Geroux has the call aboard the six-year-old.

Grade 2 scorer Frac Daddy (Scat Daddy), last seen finishing fourth in the San Diego (G2) in late July, returns for Kenny McPeek and just missed when making his lone appearance on Churchill's grass course in the 2013 Commonwealth Turf (G3), finishing a half-length second. Multiple stakes victor Hip Four Sixtynine (Southern Image) tries turf again following an encouraging runner-up in the May 1 Texas Mile (G3) and Guys Reward (Grand Reward) is a five-time winner over the local turf, including the 2012 editions of the Firecracker (G2) and Opening Verse.

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Eleven to compete in wide-open Penn Mile

Night Prowler enters the Penn Mile with a pair of Grade 3 wins, including the Transylvania (Keeneland/Coady Photography)
Saturday's $500,000 Penn Mile (G3) at Penn National, elevated this year to Grade 3 status, figures to be a fascinating handicapping and betting exercise. Eleven three-year-olds have entered the grass test, and a majority are worthy win candidates.

The most familiar name in the lineup is Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense), who captured the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) in November but faltered as a classic candidate this spring. Third in the Blue Grass (G1) two back, he finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby (G1) last time. However, the dark bay has never run on turf, although he has the potential to handle it descending from Street Cry and Horse Chestnut.

"I think he'll like the grass. The distance he'll like. I don't have any doubts. He's pretty keen to go. I don't see any negativity," trainer Jim Cassidy said.

Also invading from the West Coast is Papacoolpapacool (Temple City), a comfortable winner of the $80,000 Pasadena and $79,000 La Puente at Santa Anita, the latter at odds of 1-2. He is undefeated in three outings since joining the Phil D'Amato barn.

"He handles his foes pretty easily in his races, and he's just been training lights out," D'Amato said. "It made my decision to ship out there easy to test the waters."

Night Prowler (Giant's Causeway), the morning line favorite at 3-1, will be looking to add to his graded stakes trophy collection after wins in the Transylvania (G3) and Dania Beach (G3) earlier this season. In between those wins, the Chad Brown trainee was a rough-trip fifth in the Palm Beach (G3).

Woodwin W (More Than Ready) has started his career with four straight wins, the most recent being a three-quarters of a length score in the $100,000 James W. Murphy at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard two weeks ago. The runner-up, stakes winner Force the Pass (Speightstown), is back to oppose.

Others who might move forward are Granny's Kitten (Kitten's Joy), who has won both starts including a Churchill Downs allowance May 10; Commanche's Storm (Pollard's Vision), runner-up in the $75,000 English Channel at Gulfstream last time; and High Noon Rider (Distorted Humor), runner-up to Force the Pass in the $60,000 Cutler Bay at Gulfstream prior to a recent allowance win.

Ben's Cat slipped inside Bold Thunder to take the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico two weeks ago (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)
Grass stakes winners My Point Exactly (Concord Point) and Tuba (Magna Graduate) have also been entered.

The venerable Ben's Cat (Parkers's Storm Cat), who earned his 24th career stakes win May 15 when taking the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico, headlines the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup, a five-furlong turf dash.

This will be Ben's Cat's fourth appearance in the Governor's Cup. The nine-year-old, King Leatherbury charge won in 2011, was fourth in 2012, and third in 2013.

His main rivals figure to be the pair he just defeated at Old Hilltop -- Jim McKay runner-up Bold Thunder (Bold n' Flashy) and third-placer Amelia's Wild Ride (D'wildcat). Trying turf for a second time is Fabulous Kid (Congrats), a sharp second-level allowance winner over the main track at Parx last time.

The $200,000 Mountainview H., a nine-furlong, main-track test for older horses, has attracted a number of graded stakes winners. Early favorites on the morning line are Grade 3 scorers Albano (Istan), who won the Maxxam Gold Cup two back and was second in the New Orleans H. (G2) last time, and Golden Lad (Medaglia d'Oro), who captured the Essex H. in February prior to a fourth in the Oaklawn H. (G2).

Other notables include Dwyer (G3) winner Kid Cruz (Lemon Drop Kid); Indiana Derby (G2) hero East Hall (Graeme Hall); Mineshaft H. (G3) victor Street Babe (Street Sense); and the competitive-looking trio of Farhaan (Jazil), Cousin Stephen (Proud Citizen), and Nowalking (Hard Spun).

Strict Compliance (Into Mischief), who was entered in Saturday's American Oaks (G1) at Santa Anita, will reportedly skip that race in favor of the $150,000 Penn Oaks over a mile on the turf. The Chad Brown pupil missed by a neck in her debut before reeling off back-to-back wins at Gulfstream and Keeneland.

Quality Rocks (Rock Hard Ten), winner of the Florida Oaks (G3) and runner-up in the Sweetest Chant (G3) and Edgewood (G3) this term, looks like the one to beat. Also among the field of eight are multiple stakes winner Red Sashay (Big Brown) and the Grade/Group 3-placed Prize Exhibit (Showcasing) and Pangburn (Congrats).

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Brown sends two to California for American Oaks

American Oaks candidate Consumer Credit has won three of her four stakes appearances (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Not only does trainer Chad Brown have the nation's leading three-year-old turf filly in Lady Eli (Divine Park), but the young conditioner has his eye set on plundering other divisional races Lady Eli is not targeting. A case in point is Saturday's $400,000 American Oaks (G1) at Santa Anita, where Brown will saddle two of the six entrants in the 1 1/4-mile test.

The most accomplished of the trio is Consumer Credit (More Than Ready), who has already won three of her four stakes appearances. Opening her black type account with a 3 3/4-length score in the $75,000 Wait a While at Gulfstream Park West in November, she next captured the Sweetest Chant (G3) at Gulfstream by a length two months later.

Second by three-quarters of a length in the March 7 Florida Oaks (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, Consumer Credit rebounded to take the $98,000 Memories of Silver at Aqueduct April 23, but only by a neck on yielding ground.

Brown's will also be represented by Mrs McDougal (Medaglia d'Oro), who is two-for-three after romping by more than seven lengths over good ground at Aqueduct. Brown also entered Strict Compliance (Into Mischief), but will instead run that filly in Saturday's $150,000 Penn Oaks at Penn National.

The home defense is led by Spanish Queen (Tribal Rule) and Sharla Rae (Afleet Alex), one-two in the May 3 Honeymoon (G2) over nine furlongs. The 1 1/2-length score by Spanish Queen was her second in three starts, the only setback being a neck loss in the Providencia (G3) two back.

Sharla Rae, 48-1 in the Honeymoon, had previously captured the California Oaks and Pike Place Dancer on Golden Gate Fields' Tapeta, and the Barretts Debutante on the dirt at Los Alamitos.

Moreno looks to end his Santa Anita losing streak in the Californian (Coady Photography)
Invading the West Coast for a third time is the Todd Pletcher-trained Feathered (Indian Charlie), exiting a two-length win in the Edgewood (G3) at Churchill Downs in her turf debut. Last fall, she finished fourth by a length in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita and second by a half-length in the Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos.

The field is completed by Dating Lady Luck (Arch), a last-out maiden winner at Keeneland for Al Stall.

The speedy older male star Moreno (Ghostzapper) seeks to snap his eight-race losing skid at Santa Anita when he takes on eight rivals in the $200,000 Californian (G2) at 1 1/8 miles.

Hero of last year's Whitney (G1), Moreno has had a positive campaign thus far. Runner-up to Shared Belief (Candy Ride) in the Santa Anita H. (G1) off a four-month layoff, Moreno next finished a close third in the New Orleans H. (G2) and then won the Charles Town Classic (G2) by two lengths after Shared Belief was pulled up midway through the race.

Moreno has finished second four times in eight starts at Santa Anita, but has never won over the main track. One who has, Catch a Flight (Giant's Causeway), figures to be his most serious rival. The Brazilian import finished third in the Big 'Cap in his third U.S. appearance, and most recently captured the Precisionist (G3) over returning rivals Sammy Mandeville (Rock Hard Ten) and Blue Tone (Birdstone).

Also lining up for the Californian are Big Cazanova (Giant's Causeway), who captured the Native Diver (G3) at Del Mar two back but was only fifth in the January 10 San Pasqual (G2) in his only outing so far this year, and Louisiana H. winner Hard Aces (Hard Spun), who adds blinkers after a fourth in the Big 'Cap and a sixth in the Oaklawn H. (G2).

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Heitai tops Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint

Heitai (Fusaichi Pegasus) was only eighth of 10 in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3), but merits serious consideration when he defends his title Saturday in the $300,000 Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint.

The field for the five-furlong dash will be reduced to at least seven with the scratch of early favorite Power Alert (Alert) due to the likelihood of soft turf. The Australian import, who captured the Twin Spires Turf Sprint in course-record time, will instead point for the Jaipur S. (G3) at Belmont Park June 6.

Prior to his flub at Churchill Downs, Heitai had finished first or second in his previous 11 starts. Heitai is two-for-two over the Evangeline turf, and took the inaugural edition of this sprint by 3 3/4 lengths.

The established sprinter Gantry (Pulpit) was only fifth in the local prep, the $60,000 Need for Speed on May 2, but it was his first start in nearly five months and figures to be much sharper for this. However, he failed to fire here last year when a dull fifth.

Also exiting the Need for Speed is the winner, Reflector (Ready's Image), and the Quick Dagger (Northern Afleet) and Ty's Bandit (Time Bandit), who finished in a dead heat for second three-quarters of a length behind Reflector. A threat to improve is Great Minds (Stroll), who has finished first or second in three outings since joining the Al Stall barn.

Evangeline's richest card of the season also features two other open stakes. A wide-open renewal of the $100,000 Evangeline Mile for older horses on the main track features Argentinean import Mystery Train (Not for Sale), the Mineshaft H. (G3) runner-up looking to rebound off tiring seventh-place performance in the Precisionist (G3) at Santa Anita.

Stormdriver (Discreet Cat) enters off a freakish performance in the off-the-turf, $60,000 John Henry April 25. Preceding the win with a score over $30,000 claimers, the five-year-old took a  huge step forward to deliver the knockout by 5 3/4 lengths.

Others of interest are last-out allowance winners Only in America (Tiznow), Ide Be Cool (Ide), and Galveston Harbor (Belgravia), and the stakes-winning Holiday Mischief (Into Mischief), who was overmatched in the Texas Mile (G3) last time.

The $100,000 Opelousas, a 1 1/16-mile grass stakes for fillies and mares, features the top three finishers from the $60,000 Matron on April 24 -- Tensas Harbor (Private Vow), Hot Tempo (Heatseeker), and Synapse (Fairbanks). However, that prep was rained off the turf and contested on a sloppy track, which might have aided Tensas Harbor more. Hot Tempo won the 2014 Matron on turf, while Synapse was only a half-length away from victory in last year's Opelousas.

Other likely contenders are Satin Gold (English Channel), a close fourth in the 2014 Opelousas prior to winning a stakes on the Remington turf, and Treaty Oak (War Chant), a two-time allowance winner on grass at Fair Grounds last winter.

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In brief

Horse of the Year and dual Classic winner California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) is set to have a racecourse gallop at Ascot next week ahead of his engagement at the Royal meeting. It is hoped Frankie Dettori will be able to partner last year's Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness S. (G1) winner in the exercise as he prepares for the Prince of Wales's S. (Eng-G1) June 17. The four-year-old is lodging with trainer Rae Guest in Newmarket since finishing second to Prince Bishop in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) in March, and trainer Art Sherman's son, Alan, is set to fly in from California for the gallop. "California Chrome's progress continues with the start of Royal Ascot less than three weeks away," reported Guest on his website. "Rae is very happy with his work, he has been making use of Newmarket's watered gallop in recent weeks. This gallop runs adjacent to Newmarket's famous Rowley Mile Racecourse. Frankie Dettori will ride him in his gallop at Ascot as long as his existing commitments allow."...

Bill Cubbedge's Molly Morgan (Ghostzapper) is off to the breeding shed for her next career as a broodmare after sustaining a cracked sesamoid bone in her left front leg during a recent workout. The six-year-old bay mare most recently captured her fourth stakes and first Grade 1 when taking the La Troienne S. on the May 1, Kentucky Oaks Day, card. Molly Morgan racked up an 8-4-8 career line from 29 starts and earned $882,159 while on track. In addition to the La Troienne, she also scored in the Chilukki S. (G2), Fleur de Lis H. (G2) and Gardenia S. (G3) last year and placed in five other stakes contests. Breeding plans have yet to be determined...

Al Shaqab Racing's Osaila (Danehill Dancer) will bid to get her season back on track in the Coronation S. (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot next month. Great things were expected of the Richard Hannon trainee after she made a winning seasonal reappearance in the Nell Gwyn S. (Eng-G3) at Newmarket in April. Osaila never figured in the One Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) at Newmarket May 3 and her owners' representative Harry Herbert is hoping it was a one off lackluster display. Herbert told At The Races, "She was a real disappointment that day, I don't know whether she just bombed after winning the Nell Gwyn when she hadn't come in her coat. The plan is to head to the Coronation at the Royal meeting. She seems in great form. She tried hard but she just had a proper off day. She was quite fractious and keen to post. Something may have just washed over her and set her alight but she's in great form now."...

Herbert also had news on another Hannon trainee that carries the same silks. "TDN Rising Star" Moheet (High Chaparral), an 800,000gns purchase at Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up Sale last year, will be a rare Richard Hannon runner in the Epsom Derby (Eng-G1). Breeding would suggest the colt should handle the step up in trip and according to Herbert, the colt is showing all the right signs at home. "I realize he's a long shot, but he is held in high regard by Richard and the team. He ran well in the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1). I think the horse is crying out to go further. Whether he wants to go a mile and a half we will have to see, but he's worked very well."  Frankie Dettori has ridden Moheet in all his three starts to date, but Al Shaqab's retained jockey is teaming up with ante-post favorite Golden Horn (Cape Cross) at Epsom. Pat Dobbs, who rides Moheet in all his work at the Hannon yard, will be entrusted with the mount on Derby day....

Following a highly respectable first effort in Group 1 company last weekend, the Luca Cumani trained Postponed (Dubawi) will drop down to a Group 2 race next when he lines up in the Hardwicke S. (Eng-G2) at Royal Ascot. The progressive four-year-old was beaten only a half-length into third behind Al Kazeem (Dubawi) and Fascinating Rock (Fastnet Rock) in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-G1) at the Curragh last Sunday, a performance that left his trainer full of hope for the season ahead.  "You can't be disappointed," commented Cumani. "It was his first try at a Group 1, so we were still checking to see if he is actually a Group 1 horse and he didn't let us down. A mile and a quarter we know is a little bit tight for him and a mile and a half is a better trip. We had to make the running because there was no pace in the race, but that is not his preferred style of running. He much prefers sitting quiet and coming with a flourish in the end, like he did last year. His next step is now the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot, which won't be a piece of cake because there is Telescope (Galileo) in it, so he will have to be at his best."  Telescope won the race by seven lengths last year and proved his recent well-being with a wide-margin win in a listed race at Newbury two weeks ago...

The Chris Waller-trained Winx (Street Cry) will attempt to justify market favoritism in this oversubscribed field for Saturday's Queensland Oaks (Aus-G1) at Doomben. A smart winner of the Sunshine Coast Guineas (Aus-G3) last time over 1600 meters May 16, Winx will break from gate 13. Runner-up in the Flight S. (Aus-G1) at Randwick to end her spring campaign October 4, the daughter of Darley's late Street Cry returned from a three-month spell and ran seventh at that venue in the 1200-meter Light Fingers S. (Aus-G2) on Valentine's Day. Just fifth of 12 in the Surround S. (Aus-G2) two weeks later, Winx reported home a winner in Rosehill's Phar Lap S. (Aus-G2) March14. Trying 2000 meters for the first time, the bay was fifth in the Vinery Stud S. (Aus-G1) later that month and proved longer distances were within her scope when a solid second under the care of Joao Moreira in the 2400-meter Australian Oaks (Aus-G1) behind Gust of Wind (Darci Brahma), one start prior to her classic score. Winx's main rival at the windows takes the form of Bohemian Lily (O'Reilly), who scooped up The Roses S. (Aus-G2) over 2020 meters here -- defeating fellow Oaks starters Col N' Lil (Bradbury's Luck) and Whatalovelyday (Domesday) among others -- for training wizard Gai Waterhouse last out May 23. Never worse than second in her last four starts, it will be the first appearance at the highest level for the Kiwi, who won the listed Bracelet S. on the Gold Coast April 25 and just missed when runner-up to rival Ballet Suite (High Chaparral) in the Princess S. when tried over 2000 meters at this venue May 9...

Pure Tactics (Pure Prize) mounts a title defense in Sunday's $75,000 Siren Lure S., an about 6 1/2-furlong scramble on Santa Anita's downhill turf. Up at the wire here one year ago, the Doug O'Neill charge later carried his speed for a mile in the October 26 Lure and also added the January 25 Clocker's Corner back at this trip. Pure Tactics was most recently sixth in the April 19 San Simeon (G3), but he rebounded off a similar effort in the same race last year. He faces only four challengers, but all have credentials -- Holy Lute (Midnight Lute) exits a closing second in the San Simeon; County Lineman (Silent Name), third in the 2014 Siren Lure, tuned up with a last-stride optional claiming score; Oliver's Tale (E Dubai) just wired a course-and-distance optional claimer by 3 1/2 lengths; and course specialist Bobby Z Man (Unusual Heat) hails from the Barry Abrams barn...

Henry S. Clark S. winner Talk Show Man (Great Notion) will likely have his first work this weekend since finishing 11th in the Dixie S. (G2) on Preakness Day, May 16. The Maryland-bred gelding, who won the Maryland Million Turf S. last year, prompted the pace in the Dixie before fading down the stretch. "I know we were in a tough spot," trainer Hamilton Smith said. "I'm not saying he would have beaten those horses by any means, but I thought we could have made an earlier move. (Jockey Xavier) Perez had the horse in perfect position on the backside. What I thought he did wrong was sit on him. He should never have let the horses come to him like that. I think he just likes to be a little further off the pace than where he was and make his run." Smith said he's looking at a grassy allowance on June 5 at Pimlico. "I might try to give him an easier spot to get his confidence back," he said. "If that (race) doesn't go, maybe a little overnight stakes at Delaware (Park). He can run on either surface. I just think he's a better horse on the turf."...

Officials at Finger Lakes canceled live racing for Friday, May 29, due to lack of entries. The elimination of Friday's card is aimed toward helping to maintain horse field size for upcoming scheduled race days. The $50,000 Susan B. Anthony S., originally slated to take place Friday, has been postponed until Saturday, May 30. Post time for first race is 1:10 p.m. (EDT).

Features

HANDICAPPING INSIGHTS

MAY 29, 2015

by Dick Powell

I have some theories about the Belmont S. (G1) and the pursuit of the Triple Crown that are out there where the buses don't run.

We focus on the three races in five weeks angle as the main reason why today's horses cannot get the job done.

What it ignores is the 25-year gap between CITATION (Bull Lea) in 1948 to SECRETARIAT (Bold Ruler) in 1973 during a period where horses raced much more than they did today. Three races in five weeks didn't seem to be the factor then that it is made out to be today.

In the 1970s, there were three Triple Crown winners and looking back, that stretch is as unexplainable as to the dearth of winners before or since. The drought was over and after SPECTACULAR BID (Bold Bidder) just missed in 1979, it seemed that there would not be any more big gaps between Triple Crown winners.

How wrong we were as AFFIRMED (Exclusive Native) in 1978 is the last Triple Crown winner. So what else could it be?

Let's bring out "Ole Reliable" and blame it on Lasix. Ignoring the 25-year gap from 1948 to 1973, it has to be Lasix and raceday medication that keeps a horse from winning all three races in a short period of time.

This conveniently ignores how the British Triple Crown, where Lasix and raceday medications are banned, has not been won since 1970 when NIJINSKY II (Northern Dancer) did it. And, Lasix was not available on raceday in New York, the site of the Belmont Stakes, until 1995, so why wasn't it hit between 1978 and 1995?

I can go through various horses that recently failed to win the Belmont after winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown and come up with various reasons and factors that affected the outcome.

One factor that I believe was true happened in 2003 and 2004. We think that if there were more time between races, the winning horses would have more time to recover and run better. But what if the Belmont were run two weeks after the Preakness S. (G1) instead of three?

In 2003, FUNNY CIDE (Distorted Humor) won the Derby and then blew away the field in the Preakness. He came out of the Preakness in great shape and on the weekend before the Belmont, he breezed five furlongs in :59 and change while being hard restrained. It looked like he could not be coming into the Belmont any better but on the day of the race, a week later, he was not the same horse.

What if the horse that had all that energy two weeks after the Preakness was able to race in the Belmont that day and not a week later? In Funny Cide's case, he still might not have been able to beat EMPIRE MAKER (Unbridled) that day but all that energy he wasted in that final workout would have been put to much better use.

In 2004, I was convinced that we had the next Triple Crown winner and his name was SMARTY JONES (Elusive Quality). The undefeated winner of the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness, he looked like he had the field at this mercy. In the weeks leading up to the Belmont, his gallops were brilliant and there was no way he could get beat. But, could he?

The weekend before the Belmont, he worked sensational with a 170-pound exercise rider aboard. But on the big day, the other riders ganged up on Stew Elliott but even then, he looked like a winner on the far turn. A record crowd of 120,319 roared thinking they were going to see racing history but in the deep stretch, Smarty Jones began to run out of gas and BIRDSTONE (Grindstone) went by him. His fatigue was mostly due to the energy that his rider expended early but even so, he was right there with a hundred yards to go. Was it the three races in five weeks or would he have won had the race been held a week before?

We will never know but I could not help but think at the time that had the Belmont been held the week before, both horses' chances of winning would have been greater. They come out of the Preakness dead fit and the extra week worked against them.

Can I prove it? No. That is why it is called a theory.

Which brings us to AMERICAN PHAROAH's (Pioneerof the Nile) workout at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning. The workout was officially a half-mile in :48 flat but he never really let up when he hit the wire and covered six furlongs in 1:13 1/5. Considering that he was at least four paths off the rail on both turns and did not have company, he probably shaded 1:12.

Visually, any concerns about how he came out of the Preakness were dispelled as his stride looked better than ever. My initial reaction was start engraving the Belmont Stakes trophy.

However, before I anoint him racing's 12th Triple Crown winner, let's see how he does in the days leading up to the Belmont on June 6. This is not Bob Baffert's first rodeo and Victor Espinoza is battle tested, so I am sure they will press all the right buttons. I would rather Baffert do what he did on Tuesday than train him lightly while worrying about his energy level. A solid workout like that should take the edge off him and have him ready on the big day.

Notebooks

BELMONT NOTEBOOK

MAY 29, 2015

by John Mucciolo

There was no graded action at Belmont Park this past week.

Track Stats

A total of 55 races were held over the main strip at the Elmont, New York, venue, with favorites winning at a 47 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 71 percent of the wins during the week. From 26 races on the main oval, six animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (23 percent), while six of the 29 grassy races were taken all the way on the lead (21 percent).

We have to say that we love how any type can win on the turf or the main oval of late, as is often the case at Belmont Park.

Four of the six wire jobs on the dirt came in route runs, while the wire-to-wire winners on the sod were split evenly with three each in route and sprint races.

Meet Totals

RACES:   196
DIRT:   106
TURF:   90
FAVORITES:   79 (40 percent)
2ND CHOICES:   44 (22 percent)
TURF WIRE:   20 (22 percent)
DIRT WIRE:   28 (26 percent)

HORSES TO WATCH

Wednesday (5/13)

6TH -- MEMORIES OF PETER (Disco Rico) was last behind a tepid pace but made a nice late run to be a closing fourth in his first run since the fall. The sophomore colt should only improve off of this one and be tough next time for conditioner Jimmy Ryerson.

8TH -- BARREL OF LOVE (Not For Love) rated to the top of the lane and then exploded inside the final furlong to post an authoritative four-length romp under Javier Castellano. The eight-year-old gelding surely has plenty left in the tank and got his final five-sixteenths in a sharp :28 1/5, good for a 100 BRIS Late Pace figure.

Thursday (5/21)

1ST -- UNCLE VINNY (Uncle Mo) was surely no surprise at the windows when bet to 1-5 odds at first asking, and the juvenile delivered with an easy tally. The Todd Pletcher-trained juvenile colt could be absolutely any kind going forward.

7TH -- GLOWING EMBER (Bernstein) was close early, took back a bit, took the lead in midstretch and held well for second while two lengths clear of his nearest foe. The five-year-old could have needed the race since being off since September, and any improvement off of this makes him ultra tough in his return.

Friday (5/22)

7TH -- GOOD PICK NICK (Tapit) couldn't reel in a talented winner in this allowance tussle but the sophomore ran big in his own right, finishing more than 12 lengths clear of third in a fine try for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The capable gray is on the improve and has now posted triple-digit Late Pace numbers in two straight.

8TH -- The Shug McGaughey-trained RELOAD (Hard Spun) hadn't raced in more than 14 months but showed little signs of rust in a clear victory under Javier Castellano. Expect the six-year-old to be stakes bound in the very near future.

Saturday (5/23)

8TH -- Trainer Bill Mott has a very nice turf performer in A LOT (Tapit), who dominated this field with a big burst in the lane. The three-year-old colt is among the top three-year-old turf runners on the East Coast and is always a major player, no matter the competition.

9TH -- KATAMA (Medaglia d'Oro) broke slowest and had a lot of work to do turning for home, but the three-year-old filly was full of energy late and got up for a sharp debut score. The Tom Morley trainee came home fast to defeat what we thought was a decent field, and looks like a promising youngster going forward.

Monday (5/25)

7TH -- QUEZON (Tiz Wonderful) picked up her second stakes trophy, and third win from four lifetime tries with a punishing late run to put this field away under Manny Franco. The Robert Ribaudo trainee showed no rust off the bench and could be ready for open foes after another start or two off the break.

A Look Ahead

There is no graded racing on tap this week at Belmont Park.

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather

SPOT PLAYS

For Friday

TRACK   (RACE) HORSE, MORNING LINE
Arlington Park   (3rd) Kingston Terrace, 3-1
    (6th) Cindy's Uproar, 8-1
Belmont Park   (7th) Compliance Officer, 5-1
    (9th) David Rocks, 5-1
Belterra Park   (3rd) Isadella, 4-1
    (4th) Sir Sunnyboy, 3-1
Canterbury Park   (5th) G Road, 5-1
    (9th) Macho Storm, 3-1
Charles Town   (1st) Up the Power, 9-2
    (6th) Marchwood, 7-2
Churchill Downs   (4th) Star of Sky, 7-2
    (5th) Tulira Castle, 7-2
Emerald Downs   (3rd) Percy's Bluff, 3-1
    (5th) Sanibel Harbor, 3-1
Evangeline Downs   (6th) Ravin Rebel, 8-1
    (9th) Beaus Brahms, 5-1
Golden Gate Fields   (3rd) Tell Her Yes, 6-1
    (5th) Justamitch, 10-1
Gulfstream Park   (6th) Dragon Master, 3-1
    (7th) E B Ryder, 3-1
Indiana Grand   (7th) My Name is Hebe, 9-2
    (8th) My Nana Anna, 9-2
Lone Star Park   (3rd) Eddie Junior, 3-1
    (9th) Overland Park, 4-1
Louisiana Downs   (3rd) Midge's Magic, 3-1
    (5th) Mystic Madeline, 7-2
Penn National   (8th) Carolyn Shines, 3-1
    (9th) Highland Dragon, 3-1
Pimlico   (4th) Pluracity, 4-1
    (7th) Prayer on a Wing, 5-1
Prairie Meadows   (3rd) Full Potential, 3-1
    (7th) Ready Jett, 5-1
Santa Anita   (6th) Del Mar Dixie, 4-1
    (7th) Prevaricator, 3-1
Thistledown   (2nd) Victory in Motion, 4-1
    (6th) Pyrite Mill, 7-2
Woodbine   (3rd) Jade Dragon, 6-1
    (9th) Bear's Romeo, 10-1

HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.

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