Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner JUSTIFY galloped 1 1/2 miles Saturday morning during the special 7:30-7:40 training period Churchill Downs has set aside for horses pointing to the 150th Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 9. As usual, exercise rider Humberto Gomez was aboard the Bob Baffert trainee.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. “Once again Bob told me to take it easy with him but he’s doing really well. We did a little bit more today: we backed up to the eighth-pole, pulled up at the half, so he galloped a good mile and a half again.”
Fellow Baffert trainee, Wood Memorial (G1) third-placer RESTORING HOPE, also galloped 1 1/2 miles on Saturday. That Giant’s Causeway colt is also under consideration for the Belmont Stakes and might breeze either Monday or Tuesday.
“You have to get Bob a lot of credit,” Barnes said. “He’s stocked the pond well every year. You have to have the horse and the horsepower to compete in these classic races. We keep coming up with them and are very lucky. You do have to pinch yourself because you don’t know if you will have it every year.”
Risen Star Stakes (G2) victor and Preakness runner-up BRAVAZO galloped 1 1/2 miles for trainer D. Wayne Lukas with exercise rider Danielle Rosier in the irons during the same special training period at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
“The heat’s picking up a little bit earlier in the morning now, so I want to be careful,” Lukas said. “I have to keep that energy level up.”
According to Lukas, Bravazo is likely to have one official work ahead of the Belmont, but in terms of when the Hall of Fame conditioner only said it would come at least 10 days after the Preakness.
“I keep tweaking it every day I’m out there,” Lukas said. “But I think I’ll work him one time, but I’m going to go at least 10 days and then I’ll pick a day. That’s the minimum. I might go 11th day, 12th day, but I’d like a cool day on a nice track.
“They don’t lose their fitness in three weeks, especially with the heat and everything,” he added. “But you may want to open their lungs a little bit. It depends on the horse.”
Preakness third-placer TENFOLD also galloped about 1 1/2 miles during Churchill’s special training period on Saturday with Angel Garcia aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen. The Curlin colt started off in a lope before picking up the pace throughout.
“That’s kind of the idea,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “We’ll do a little more with him as the week goes on, probably just breeze him one time before the race.”
Tenfold made his stakes bow finishing fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park on April 14 prior to taking on the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
“He’s starting to wake up a little bit,” Blasi noted. “That was only his fourth lifetime start (in the Preakness). I’ve seen a change in him since he came from Oaklawn, through the Preakness and until now. He’s starting to show more personality, has a little more life to him, whereas before he was just very laid back. I just expect this horse to continue to improve as the year goes on. We were happy with his effort in the Preakness. I think he’s just going to continue to develop.”
Blasi indicated Tenfold would work five furlongs about a week out from the Belmont Stakes.
“I don’t think we’ll overdo it,” he said. “The horse is plenty fit. He’s come out of his race really well.”
Grade 1 winner FREE DROP BILLY, another Belmont Stakes contender based at Churchill Downs, galloped under the Twin Spires on Saturday for trainer Dale Romans. A decision on the Union Rags colt’s participation in the “Test of the Champion” should come after a scheduled breeze on Sunday.