With 15 days remaining until the Belmont Stakes, a number of Belmont Stakes contenders were out for serious training this morning, including Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah, who galloped at Churchill Downs for the first time since winning the Preakness Stakes on May 16th.
According to the official Churchill Downs Barn Notes for May 22nd, American Pharoah galloped 9.5 furlongs with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez in the saddle. “It went nice, didn’t seem like he was tired or anything,” said Alvarez. “He came back pretty much the same [after Derby]. So far, no difference.”
Jimmy Barnes, Bob Baffert’s assistant trainer who is overseeing American Pharoah’s training at Churchill, explained that the Triple Crown hopeful will gallop longer distances over the next two days: “It went very nice,” Barnes said. “He just had a 1 3/16-mile gallop today, but it went very nice. He’s perfect – just the way he always is – so we’ll gallop a little bit further maybe tomorrow (Saturday) and then by Sunday we’ll be back to his normal gallop at a mile-and-a-half.”
Also training at Churchill in advance of the Belmont Stakes was Conquest Curlinate, runner-up in both the Illinois Derby (gr. III) and Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II). The son of Curlin breezed five furlongs in :59.80, the fourth-fastest of twenty morning workouts at that distance.
Trained by Mark Casse, Conquest Curlinate’s breeze was overseen by Casse’s son and assistant trainer Norman Casse. “The way he runs he doesn’t show a whole lot of early speed,” Norman Casse said. “He’s always been a much more effective route horse obviously, so we think the distance is just perfect for him. Plus, he has a race over the track which we think is going to be pretty important. He obviously liked it.”
But as busy as the morning was at Churchill Downs, it was even busier at Belmont Park, where a quartet of Belmont Stakes contenders posted morning workouts. In terms of final times, the most impressive works came from the Todd Pletcher-trained pair of Madefromlucky (winner of the grade II Peter Pan Stakes) and Carpe Diem (winner of the grade I Blue Grass Stakes), who breezed five furlongs together in a bullet :59.01. A third Pletcher-trainee, Materiality, went five furlongs in 1:00.04 in company with Louisiana Derby (gr. II) runner-up Stanford.
Materiality (outside) breezing in company with Stanford
Also on the Belmont work tab was Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Frosted, who worked in company with the talented older runner Tamarkuz, winner of the $2 million Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) at Meydan on March 28th. Frosted was credited with a time of 1:00.45 for five furlongs, slightly slower than the time of 1:00.43 posted by Tamarkuz, who is targeting a start in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) on Belmont day.
Frosted (inside) breezing in company with Tamarkuz
In my opinion, the most impressive workout of the day was posted by Materiality, who–according to a report on DRF Live–clocked the last quarter-mile in an excellent :22.65 before galloping out a mile in 1:40.76. Additionally, he narrowly out-worked Stanford, which may not be an easy feat based on what we saw on Derby week at Churchill Downs. As I wrote in a blog post on the Bloodhorse.com Unlocking Winners, Stanford had a remarkable workout at Churchill on April 24th, easily leaving Madefromlucky behind while posting a sharp time and galloping out strongly. Since even a workout this impressive wasn’t enough to earn Stanford a run in the Derby, my feeling is that Stanford must be a pretty impressive workhouse in the mornings, and for Materiality to out-work him suggests that the Florida Derby winner is in good form heading into the Belmont Stakes.
Although it was a busy day for morning workouts, there were no new developments in regard to potential starters or jockey assignments. Thus, the current field of expected starters remains as follows:
|American Pharoah||Victor Espinoza||Bob Baffert|
|Carpe Diem||Unknown||Todd Pletcher|
|Conquest Curlinate||Shaun Bridgmohan||Mark Casse|
|Frammento||Mike Smith||Nick Zito|
|Frosted||Joel Rosario||Kiaran McLaughlin|
|Keen Ice||Unknown||Dale Romans|
|Mubtaahij||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Mike de Kock|
|Tale of Verve||Gary Stevens||Dallas Stewart|
|War Story||Colby Hernandez||Tom Amoss|