Belmont Stakes Countdown–May 26, 2015

Belmont Stakes Countdown–May 26, 2015

The excitement of the day came from Churchill Downs, where Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner American Pharoah turned in his penultimate workout in advance of the June 6th Belmont Stakes (gr. I), in which he will attempt to become the first winner of the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.

The son of Pioneerof the Nile breezed a half-mile in :48 flat, starting off with sharp fractions of :12 1/5, :24 flat, and :35 4/5 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 and six furlongs in 1:13 1/5. Jockey Martin Garcia was aboard for the workout, and according to the Churchill Downs Barn Notes for May 6th, he was very pleased with American Pharoah’s exercise: “I’m really happy with what he did.” Garcia said. “He came back like [it was] nothing. He loves to run. He’s getting more mature and I think right now he’s starting to realize what’s going on and he likes it.”

“The way he’s been running and the things he has done, he’s done very easily and I think he’s going to make it,” he said. “Before, he was green and he really didn’t know what was going on. He’s starting to realize what is [going on] now. He’s learning really well.”

Trainer Bob Baffert was also pleased with American Pharoah’s workout: “I really like the way he went today,” Baffert said. “He showed like he had a lot of energy. When he hit the track I was on the radio talking to Martin [Garcia] and he really liked the way he felt and he just took off going really easily. I told Martin to just let him keep going. I really liked the way he went.”

“We’re just going to stay focused, keep the weight on him and keep him happy like the way he looks today. Next week, we’ll do sort of the same thing with him – just cruise him around real easily, ship to New York and we won’t do much with him up there.”

“Before [when preparing his three previous Derby/Preakness winners for the Belmont], I felt that there was more pressure,” Baffert said. “But now I’ve been through it, I know what to expect and I know that at the end of the day you need a good horse and you have to be doing really well. As for what I saw today I don’t see any regression. We don’t want to see regression, but he’s still going to have to run a top race. “He’s come back [from the Preakness] extremely well. He only had those two races [the Rebel and Arkansas Derby] and they were light races up at Oaklawn. The Derby was a hard race and I think it really got him fit. And the Preakness race, it looked like he handled that pretty well. He makes my job easier because he is such a good horse. Today went pretty good, he was pretty spectacular out there.”

American Pharoah will post his final pre-Belmont workout on either May 30th or 31st, and he will ship to Belmont Park on June 2nd.

The other major news of the day came from the connections of War Story, who announced that their colt would skip the Belmont Stakes and instead await the $500,000 Ohio Derby on June 20th. War Story’s defection could definitely change the complexion of the Belmont, as War Story was expected to be the pacesetter in the Belmont. Now, American Pharoah appears to be the most likely leader in the Belmont, along with Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Materiality, who will be attempting to rebound from a troubled sixth-place finish in the Derby.


With twelve days remaining until the Belmont Stakes, here is the current list of expected starters:

Horse Jockey Trainer
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 Kent Desormeaux Dale Romans
Madefromlucky Unknown Todd Pletcher
Materiality Unknown Todd Pletcher
Mubtaahij Irad Ortiz, Jr. Mike de Kock
Tale of Verve Gary Stevens Dallas Stewart

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Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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