By US Racing Team
Hall of Fame trainers Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert trimmed their rosters for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1), with four-time winner Pletcher set with two top contenders and three-time winner Baffert ready to go with Preakness (G1) champion National Treasure.
Pletcher, seeking a fifth victory in the final leg of the Triple Crown, has his 2-year-old champion Forte ready to go after missing the Kentucky Derby (G1) with a foot bruise and the Preakness because the colt was placed on the 14-day vet’s list and ruled ineligible.
He’ll also send out Tapit Trice, who had won four in a row including the Blue Grass (G1) before running seventh in the Derby. Pletcher had a pair of possible in Kingsbarns and Prove Worthy, but they are no longer under consideration.
Baffert, a three-time Belmont winner and two-time Triple Crown winner, had considered three but whittled his list to his record-setting eighth Preakness winner. His other possible were Reincarnate and Arabian Lion.
The other probables are Derby runners Angel Empire (third), Hit Show (fifth), and Raise Cain (eighth); Preakness fourth-place finisher Red Route One; and new shooters who missed the first two Triple Crown races Arcangelo and Il Miracolo. Tapit Shoes is listed as possible.
Forte, as most know by now, would have been the Derby favorite but was a last-minute scratch, and then was placed on the vet’s list, which meant he’d also miss the Preakness. But he seems to be in top shape to improve on his 6-for-7 record that earned him the 2-year-old championship and moved him to the head of the 3-year-old class after wins in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1).
National Treasure, who did not earn enough points to qualify for the Derby, led gate-to-wire in the Preakness, and will be face a formidable challenge going 1 ½ miles, 5-16ths of a mile longer than the Preakness.
And then there’s Angel of Empire, who went off as the Derby favorite and ran third for trainer Brad Cox, who also trains Hit Show. The Arkansas Derby (G1) winner showed he’s in fine form on May 27, working 5 furlongs in 59.80 seconds at Churchill Downs on May 27.
Kentucky Derby winner Mage and runner-up Two Phil’s are not running in the Belmont Stakes, with Mage being pointed to the Travers (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 26, and Two Phil’s to the Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown on June 24.
Arcangelo is a newcomer to the Triple Crown scene. Winner of the Peter Pan (G3) at Belmont in his last start, the ridgling worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.81 on May 31. It convinced trainer Jenna Antonucci to try the Belmont for the first time. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who won his first Derby aboard Mage, has the mount.
“He’s a nice, beautiful moving horse and he did it easy. He’s a good work horse. In the morning, you can work him 59 if you wanted,” Castellano said. “We all know that it’s a mile and a half and you don’t want to go crazy with a bullet work. We just give him a good foundation and I think we both agree we let him do what he wants to do in the morning and be happy.”
|1||Tapit Shoes||3-1||Brad H. Cox||Jose Ortiz|
|2||Tapit Trice||3-1||Todd A. Pletcher||Luis Saez|
|3||Arcangelo||8-1||Jena M. Antonucci||Javier Castellano|
|4||National Treasure||5-1||Bob Baffert||John R. Velazquez|
|5||Il Miracolo||30-1||Antonio Sano||Marcos Meneses|
|6||Forte||5-2||Todd A. Pletcher||Irad Ortiz, Jr.|
|7||Hit Show||10-1||Brad H. Cox||Manuel Franco|
|8||Angel of Empire||7-2||Brad H. Cox||Flavien Prat|
|9||Red Route One||15-1||Steve M. Asmussen||Joel Rosario|
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.