Gotham Stakes (G3) winner J Boys Echo breezed five furlongs in 1:00 over Churchill Downs’ fast main track on Saturday in readiness for the 149th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 10.
“I just wanted to see good energy, him finishing up,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He did everything perfect. Today may be the best he’s worked – maybe ever. He’s not a big-time workhorse, for him to work in a minute, he’s fresh and feeling good.
Regular exercise rider Tammy Fox was aboard J Boys Echo, who worked in company with Reedini. The duo posted splits of :23 and :47.40 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.80.
“Reedini is coming off a layoff. He’s a good horse. He worked with him last week, and Reedini kind of kept up with him going head and head, and J Boy got away from him on the gallop-out,” Romans said. “Today Reedini couldn’t keep up with him. J Boy opened up three on him around the turn (working to the seven-eighths pole) and galloped out 10 in front.
“So I was very impressed with J Boy today. He’s been training great and will ship to New York Tuesday morning.
Robby Albarado, aboard Reedini for the move, has been confirmed as the rider on J Boys Echo in the Belmont Stakes. He previously piloted the Mineshaft colt in all but one start before the Kentucky Derby (G1), but suffered a fractured leg right before the Run for the Roses that forced him to miss the race.
“He looked amazing from my standpoint, where I was,” Albarado said. “He was galloping along, got away from me the last eighth-mile. I couldn’t keep up with him – and was glad I didn’t. I was impressed with him.
“Mineshaft loved Belmont Park and was three-for-three there. If that’s any indication of how he’s going to run, I’m excited about him. (It takes) a lot of stamina, lot of staying power, a horse that can lope along for at least a mile and a quarter and then sprint on home. Obviously, it takes a nice horse to do it on this level. But it’s a pressure-less race. There’s no pressure on you unless you’re going for the Triple Crown.
“If I wasn’t ready to ride, I would definitely tell Dale. I really don’t need just to ride the Belmont. If I felt I couldn’t give 100 percent, I’d tell him,” Albarado added. “I’m part of Dale’s team. I certainly wouldn’t want to hurt the team. So, if my body’s ready, I’m excited to ride the horse.”
At Keeneland on Saturday, Illinois Derby (G3) scorer Multiplier breezed a half-mile in :48.60 over the fast main dirt in company with regular workmate War Union.
Trainer Brendan Walsh was in the saddle for the move and said the gray son of The Factor galloped out in “1:01 and change.”
“He worked great,” Walsh said. “Everything went according to plan, so we’re all set for the Belmont. It was good, just a routine work. Nothing special. He’s fit and ready to go. We just wanted to make sure everything was in order, and it is. So we’re going.”
Federico Tesio Stakes winner Twisted Tom posted his final move ahead of the “Test of the Champion” on Saturday as well, but at Belmont Park.
The Chad Brown trainee covered five furlongs in 1:01.13 on the fast main track with exercise rider Peter Roman holding the reins. Twisted Tom worked in company with Metropolitan Handicap (G1) hopeful Economic Model and galloped out in 1:13.80.
“He executed it perfectly,” Brown said. “We wanted a nice, steady five-eighths.
“He’s trained really well since the (April 22) Tesio. The Belmont has been our goal since then; we’ve been trying to figure out how to get him to the race. Obviously, it will be a big class test for him but I’ve been anxious to try him at 1 1/2 miles.”
Twisted Tom is three-for-three as a sophomore, including both the Tesio and Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park.
Peter Pan Stakes (G3) runner-up Meantime recorded his final Belmont Stakes breeze at Big Sandy on Saturday, clocking five furlongs in 1:01.66 on the main track under jockey Mike Luzzi. The chestnut son of Shackleford caught up with his workmate, who broke off in front of Meantime, and the duo galloped out together around the clubhouse turn.
“It wasn’t the most orthodox work,” trainer Brian Lynch said. “We tried to work him with another horse and the other horse broke off too far in front of him, but he had a good target to chase. The work was comfortable enough. (I) didn’t want Mike to push on him too hard, we worked him quite quick last week, a little quicker than I wanted going into a long race. It was more of a comfort work today with a good gallop out, and inevitably he ended up catching the horse on the gallop out.
“When I look at the big picture, it probably was a pretty good work,” he added. “(He) went 1:01 and change and out in 1:14, so I think it was the work we were looking for. Watching him come off the track, he had minimal blow and seemed to have a good recovery rate. I think he’s a pretty fit horse going into it, so I think we’ll roll the dice and move forward.”
Meantime broke his maiden by 7 1/2 front-running lengths at Keeneland in April and attempted to lead all the way home while making his stakes bow in the Peter Pan last out.
“I think he’s a horse that’ll be up in the first tier of horses and a lot of the times that’s where the Belmont is won,” Lynch said. “Whoever is one-two-three going into the first turn usually finishes one-two-three, so I think tactically, he’s the right horse to try and do it with it. I think fitness-wise, the mile and a half will be a test, but he’s as good as we can get him.”
Lynch confirmed that jockey Mike Smith has the call aboard Meantime in the Belmont Stakes.
“I hadn’t really committed to a rider and he was available,” he explained. “So I thought, nobody better than a big money rider for a race like this, and I’ve got a long rapport with Mike from California years ago, so I think if he feels I’m going to take a shot, he’ll take a shot with me. He’s certainly a rider who shows up on big days and hopefully we’ve got an up-and-coming horse that provides the talent he needs to get it done.”
Epicharis was released from quarantine Saturday morning and visited Belmont’s training track ahead of the third jewel of the Triple Crown. The Japanese-bred colt jogged clockwise for five furlongs, then turned around and galloped seven furlongs.
The exercise, which was Epicharis’ first on U.S. soil since arriving Thursday, pleased trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara.
“It was just to check how he is here since arriving from Japan,” Hagiwara said through interpreter Soshi Inoue. “It looked like he’s OK, so it was good. Tomorrow he will go a lot faster, and longer, but he’s not sure if he’ll go here or the main track.”
Epicharis suffered his first career loss when traveling outside of Japan for the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) at Meydan in Dubai on March 25. The dark bay son of Gold Allure just missed by a head to Thunder Snow, who finished second in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-G1) a week ago.
Hagiwara believes his charge has a shot at classic glory.
“He knows about the other horses in the race, but he’s not sure about the race,” Inoue said. “He’ll see how he goes. He’s here to win the race so you tell me.”
In other Belmont Stakes news
Trainer Graham Motion is increasingly likely to send Irish War Cry to the Belmont, Blood-Horse reports. The Wood Memorial (G2) winner, who retreated to 10th in the Kentucky Derby (G1), turned in a six-furlong work at his Fair Hill base Saturday in 1:14. Workmate Ascend posted the same time.
Santa Anita Derby (G1) hero Gormley‘s Belmont status is reportedly still up in the air following his Saturday drill. Under regular rider Victor Espinoza, the John Shirreffs pupil covered seven furlongs in 1:26.20, sporting blinkers, at Santa Anita. The son of Malibu Moon was most recently ninth in the Run for the Roses.
Hollywood Handsome is definitely Belmont-bound, trainer Dallas Stewart told Daily Racing Form. Florent Geroux has the call on the Churchill allowance winner.
Grade 3 winner and Preakness Stakes (G1) third-placer Senior Investment is scheduled to work on Tuesday morning, according to assistant trainer Jeff Odintz.
“He’s doing good,” Odintz said. “Everything is going smooth. (Trainer) Kenny (McPeek) should be here Monday morning for training so if anything changes he’ll be here.”
Stakes winner Lookin at Lee, runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and fourth last out in the Preakness, is scheduled for his final major Belmont Stakes breeze Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. (ET) over the main track at Big Sandy, assistant trainer Toby Sheets said.