Belmont Stakes Notes
Nehro arrives at Belmont Park
Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up NEHRO (Mineshaft) arrived at trainer Steve Asmussen's Belmont Park barn early Friday morning after an overnight van ride from Churchill Downs, and will likely breeze early Monday morning for the 143rd running of the Belmont S. (G1) on June 11.
"He came in around 5 o'clock (EDT) this morning, he shipped in well," said Toby Sheets, Asmussen's New York assistant. "He's supposed to have an easy breeze on Monday and train lightly the next two days. He'll go to the track around 6:30, 6:45, in the second set."
The bay colt will enter the Belmont still seeking his first stakes victory and only his second career win. Nehro broke his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths in late February before stringing together a pair of close neck seconds in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1). He filled the runner-up spot once again in the Kentucky Derby, this time 2 3/4 lengths behind the triumphant ANIMAL KINGDOM (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]), and will attempt to turn the tables on that rival in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.
Animal Kingdom is also set to work on Monday at Belmont, but will likely miss seeing Nehro on the track that day. Trainer Graham Motion will be on hand for the breeze, which is scheduled on the main track after the renovation break at 8:45 a.m.
The Derby winner will arrive Sunday from Maryland's Fair Hill Training Center and be stabled in the barn of trainer David Donk, a longtime friend of Motion.
Preakness S. (G1) winner SHACKLEFORD (Forestry), who shipped in to Belmont on Memorial Day, will breeze Saturday morning after the break with exercise rider Tammy Fox aboard.
Trainer Dale Romans said a final decision on a Belmont start would likely be made Sunday, but is optimistic the colt will run in the "Test of the Champion."
Should the chestnut colt start, it would mark the first time since 2005 that the Kentucky Derby winner and the Preakness victor faced off in the Belmont. That year, Preakness winner Afleet Alex won the Belmont, with Derby winner Giacomo finishing seventh.
Risen Star S. (G2) hero MUCHO MACHO MAN (Macho Uno), third in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness, will have his final work for the Belmont on Sunday morning on the main track after the break, according to trainer Kathy Ritvo. New jockey Ramon Dominguez will be aboard for the move.
"Everything is going good," Ritvo said. "He jogged two miles on the main track today, stood in the gate and backed out. I figure Sunday will be good timing."
After his morning gallop, the leggy chestnut colt, who stands 17-1 hands tall, got his customary bath -- in warm water.
"He hates cold water," Ritvo said. "If you try to give him a bath in cold water, he starts stamping his feet and lets you know he doesn't like it one bit."
Gotham S. (G3) winner STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini), who later finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby, is slated to breeze five furlongs at Belmont on Sunday as he progresses toward a start in the Belmont Stakes on June 11.
"The horse is doing well and had a very good breeze (six furlongs in 1:12) last Sunday," said Todd Pletcher, who trains the three-year-old half-brother to Andromeda's Hero, the 2005 Belmont Stakes runner-up. "Everything has gone smoothly since the Derby. I hope he steps up with a big performance. We're hoping his pedigree kicks in at the quarter-pole."
No final determination has been made on a rider for Stay Thirsty. Dominguez had been aboard for the colt's previous three starts this season.
RULER ON ICE (Roman Ruler), third in the Sunland Derby (G3) and second in the Federico Tesio, will breeze either Saturday or Sunday morning at Monmouth Park in what will be his final workout in the lead-up to the Belmont Stakes.
"He's doing well," trainer Kelly Breen said. "We're not sure which day he'll breeze at the moment."
Breen said he hasn't decided when he'll ship Ruler on Ice to Belmont Park, but would like to keep the colt at Monmouth Park for as long as possible.
"We're playing it by ear," Breen added. "He likes Monmouth Park, and we want to keep him happy."
Breen will confirm Ruler on Ice's rider at a later date.
Blue Grass S. (G1) scorer BRILLIANT SPEED (Dynaformer), who was seventh in the Kentucky Derby, continues to please trainer Tom Albertrani as he prepares for the Belmont. The dark bay colt breezed five furlongs in 1:03 Wednesday morning and will have another work early next week.
"I feel as if he's going into this race the same way he went into the Derby," Albertrani explained. "He's doing everything you want to see a horse do going into the race."
PRIME CUT (Bernstein), who ran second in the April 23 Lexington S. (G3) at Keeneland and third in Belmont Park's Peter Pan S. (G2) on May 14, remains under consideration for the Belmont with a final decision expected late Saturday, trainer Neil Howard revealed.
"We're still possible," Howard said from Churchill Downs, where Prime Cut worked five furlongs in 1:03 3/5 on Memorial Day. "Mr. (Donald) Adam, the farm manager and I will have a conversation tomorrow evening and we'll probably make a decision then."
Prime Cut is scheduled to put in his final major move for the race at Churchill Downs Monday morning. Howard said the bay colt was doing very well, and added that while the 1 1/2 miles is a question mark for all the starters, he feels the colt's stamina and pedigree are a plus.
"He ran very well in an important prep race for the Belmont, the Peter Pan, so he has a good race over the track," the trainer added. "But in a race like the Belmont, you don't want to just say, 'Yee-hah, let's go!' You've got the two obvious horses in Animal Kingdom and Shackleford, both of whom still look strong to me, and Nehro as well."
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