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Danza, Wicked Strong breeze ahead of Belmont

Danza's easy half-mile was "perfect," according to trainer Todd Pletcher (Oaklawn/Coady Photography)
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Danza returned to the worktab for the first time since finishing third, beaten three lengths, in the Kentucky Derby by breezing a half-mile in :49 2/5 on Sunday at Belmont Park.

"Perfect, everything I wanted, nice and easy, just getting back in action," trainer Todd Pletcher said of the move accomplished on the fast training track.

A 4 3/4-length winner of the Arkansas Derby, Danza is one of three horses from Pletcher's barn who are targeting the Belmont Stakes, the others being Commissioner (second in the Peter Pan) and Intense Holiday (12th in the Kentucky Derby).

"They'll all breeze next Sunday, weather permitting," Pletcher said.

Pletcher is seeking his second straight Belmont Stakes victory and third overall. He won the 2013 Belmont with Palace Malice and the 2007 edition with the filly Rags to Riches.

Also in action on the training track was Wicked Strong, who breezed five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 in preparation for the Belmont Stakes. The son of Hard Spun was likewise getting back to work for the first time since the Kentucky Derby, in which he finished a troubled fourth.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens was pleased with the work.

"He looked good. Everything is on schedule so far," Jerkens said.

"I don't know the exact day he'll breeze next week; it depends on how he gallops in between. It depends on a million things, but you can't get ready for a mile and a half keeping him in the barn."

Samraat took to the main track at Aqueduct, turning in a :48 4/5 four-furlong breeze in his first workout since finishing fifth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby.

"It was a recreational move, a maintenance breeze," said Rick Violette, who trains Samraat for Leonard Riggio's My Meadowview Farm. "He stretched his legs, had a good time out there, and pulled up well."

Wicked Strong covered five furlongs to the satisfaction of trainer Jimmy Jerkens (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)
Samraat, a New York-bred, opened his career with five wins, including scores in the Withers in February and Gotham in March at Aqueduct. He was second by 3 1/2 lengths to Wicked Strong in Aqueduct's TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial in April.

"The Belmont is under serious consideration without fully committing," Violette said of the colt's status for the Belmont Stakes.

The trainer added that Samraat likely will breeze one mile next week on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Those coming out of the Derby can take heart from the fact that the Derby form was flattered in the Preakness. Not only did California Chrome come back to win again, but Ride On Curlin rebounded from a late-running seventh in the Derby to finish best of the rest at Pimlico.

Christophe Clement, who is likely to send out Tonalist in the Belmont, expressed his admiration for California Chrome, but is not concerned about who will line up against his trainee on June 7. Tonalist was a dominant winner of the Peter Pan, the traditional local prep for the Belmont Stakes.

"He's had an easy week; he'll have a breeze this coming Saturday," Clement said.

"I'm not going to worry too much about the field because there's not much I can do about it. I saw that California Chrome was very impressive yesterday and I congratulate his connections because it's a great feat."

Others pointing to the Belmont include Commanding Curve, a fast-finishing second in the Kentucky Derby, and Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin. Another Preakness starter under consideration for the Belmont is third-place finisher Social Inclusion, who is scheduled to arrive in New York on Friday. Preakness also-rans General a Rod (fourth), Ring Weekend (fifth) and Kid Cruz (eighth) are questionable.

Trainers commented on the depth of the prospective Belmont field.

"It looks like it might be a full field," Violette said, "and we'll have some horses who ran in the Derby who decided to wait for the Belmont and some who ran in both the Derby and the Preakness. It should be a solid field, and it won't be a layup for anybody."

"It looks like it could be a tough one," Pletcher said.

Jerkens noted, "It's going to be a contentious field, that's for sure, which it figured to be with a lot of horses skipping the Preakness. The top two from the Peter Pan (Tonalist and Commissioner) are going. They'll all be there; it'll be something."

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