By US Racing Team
The favorite for the 155th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 10 looks like it could be a 3-year-old who was scratched the morning of the Kentucky Derby (G1) and then declared ineligible for the Preakness Stakes (G1) due to a slight ankle injury.
Welcome back to the Triple Crown, Mage. You are not forgotten. With less than three weeks to go before the final leg of the Triple Crown, the bay colt is back in training.
“It looked super. I’m really pleased with the way he went. He was well in hand throughout and galloped out nicely,” Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday (May 21) after Mage worked 4 furlongs in 50.31 seconds over a muddy Belmont track.
Mage, with regular rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., back from Pimlico for the workout (he was second aboard Blazing Sevens), could be one of four Belmont starters for Pletcher. The others are Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns, seventh and 14th, respectively, in the Derby, and Prove Worthy, 4 ¼-length winner in a maiden race at Churchill Downs on May 2.
Preakness winner National Treasure is possible for the Belmont, according to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who added Sir Barton (G3) winner Arabian Lion could also end up in New York.
Other possible Belmont entries include Derby also-rans Raise Cain (eighth) and Sun Thunder (10th), fourth-place Preakness finisher Red Route One, and Peter Pan (G3) winner Arcangelo.
Mage, the 2-year-old champion and Florida Derby (G1) winner, was the morning-line Derby favorite when he was scratched. He was then put on the 14-day vet’s list that prohibited the bay colt from running in the Preakness. He still needs to have a supervised workout by a vet to be cleared to race again.
“He’s in excellent condition and doing well here at Belmont,” Pletcher said. “We got that first breeze in that we were looking for and he’s scheduled to come back and breeze again on Friday if conditions permit. We’ll come back with a 5-furlong move on the main track and continue on towards the Belmont.”
Pletcher is a four-time Belmont winner: Rags to Riches (2007), Palace Malice (2013), Tapwrit (2017); and Mo Donegal (2022).
2023 Belmont Stakes Post Positions
The post-position draw is Tuesday, June 6.
With a three-week break before the 1 ½-mile Belmont, the sport is reeling in the wake of horse deaths at both Churchill Downs and Pimlico. Seven died in a 10-day period that included two on Derby Day and Baffert-trained Havnameltdown was euthanized after breaking down in a race on Preakness undercard.
Baffert made his return to the Triple Crown series for the first time since the 2021 Preakness a winning one with a record-setting eighth victory in the race. But 5 ½ hours earlier, Havnameltdown sustained a broken left front ankle, fell to the ground and was euthanized on the track. Jockey Luis Saez was taken to a hospital and released.
“It was nice to win the race, but to me it was a pretty sad day,” Baffert, who was suspended by Churchill Downs for two years when his 2021 first-place Derby finisher Medina Spirit tested positive for a race day medication violation. “We try our best, and these things happen. … It happens and you’re just in shock. It’s like, ‘How could that happen?’ It hurts. I’ll always remember this race as, ‘I lost a good horse.’’’
|1||Forte||+275||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Todd A. Pletcher|
|2||Tapit Trice||+350||Luis Saez||Todd A. Pletcher|
|3||Sun Thunder||+2500||Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.||Kenneth G McPeek|
|4||Red Route One||+1600||Joel Rosario||Steve M. Asmussen|
|5||Angel of Empire||+400||Flavien Prat||Todd A. Pletcher|
|6||Hit Show||+1600||Manuel Franco||Brad H. Cox|
|7||Arcangelo||+1400||Javier Castellano||Jena M. Antonucci|
|8||Raise Cain||+1400||Gerardo Corrales||Ben Colebrook|
|10||Il Miracolo||+5000||Marcos Meneses||Antonio Sano|
|11||National Treasure||+700||John R. Velazquez||Bob Baffert|
|12||Prove Worthy||+3300||TBD||Todd A. Pletcher|
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.