October 29, 2020

Bourbon War to line up in Belmont Stakes

Bourbon War will try to tap into his talent in the Belmont (c) Leslie Martin/Coglianese

Fountain of Youth (G2) runner-up Bourbon War will join the cast for the June 8 Belmont S. (G1), trainer Mark Hennig revealed Friday, and Hall of Famer Mike Smith will pick up the mount.

Eighth in the Preakness (G1) after lacking sufficient points for the Kentucky Derby (G1), the Tapit colt tuned up with a half-mile breeze in :48.74 Friday on a Belmont main track rated “good.”

“I was happy with him. I thought he did well, looked sharp and galloped out strong,” Hennig told NYRA publicity.

Notably, Bourbon War was not sporting blinkers. That equipment change was tried for the Preakness, without the intended effect.

Bourbon War was bet down to 5-1 in the middle jewel, his groundswell of support based upon his form from Gulfstream Park. After readily taking an allowance over eventual Sunland Park Derby (G3) hero Cutting Humor, Bourbon War was a closing second to Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and fourth in a Florida Derby (G1) dominated by controlling speed Maximum Security. That effort took on added resonance when Maximum Security crossed the wire first in the Kentucky Derby, only to be disqualified and have Country House awarded the victory. Code of Honor was promoted from third to second.

Also working Friday was Sir Winston, who entered the Belmont picture with a rallying second in the Peter Pan (G3). A stablemate of Preakness (G1) star and presumptive Belmont favorite War of Will, the Mark Casse pupil covered four furlongs in :50.16 with jockey Joel Rosario.

“He worked an easy half-mile with a good gallop-out,” assistant trainer Jamie Begg said. “He did it the way he likes to do it and he did it the right way. Joel was very happy with the breeze.”

War of Will, currently enjoying the peace and quiet of Keeneland, is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Monday. Casse has decided not to breeze the colt, but just gallop him into the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion.”

Japan’s hope, Master Fencer, schooled in the paddock, visited the main track escorted by a pony, and jogged one lap of the dirt training track.

The official sixth-placer in the Kentucky Derby had an eventful five-eighths work Wednesday, stumbling inside the eighth-pole, then regrouping from awkward strides, but causing assistant Yosuke Kono to pull him up sooner than planned.

“Up until the eighth pole, he was breezing really well and I was so satisfied,” Kono said Wednesday, according to translator Mitsuoki Numamoto. “All of a sudden, he stumbled, and gradually shifted to the left by the rail. I switched my whip to make him aware and focus to the end of the breeze. We then recovered but it was feeling a little weird so I tried to stop him as soon as possible.”

Master Fencer was thoroughly checked out, and Kono provided an upbeat bulletin Thursday.

“He got a little inflammation because of the breezing, which is normal,” Kono said. “The X-rays came back totally fine. The vet is not concerned about anything.”

On Thursday, Master Fencer “walked for an hour, which is normal for us the day after a breeze. Tomorrow, we will go to the paddock for paddock schooling first and then to the main track for a light jog.”

Obviously the miscue has drawn attention to how Master Fencer is faring. Kono was pleased with the easy Friday exercise.

“On the training track, I confirmed that he was changing leads well and just had a light training session. He was so energized today,” Kono said.

Plans call for Master Fencer to stick to the training track through the weekend. Trained by Koichi Tsunoda, the son of Just a Way is set to work on the main oval Wednesday with jockey Julien Leparoux.

At last report, 10 horses are likely for the Belmont, with Tacitus, Tax, Spinoff, Intrepid Heart, Everfast, and Joevia also in the line-up.