Who’s in and who’s out? That was the question of the morning as the expected field for the June 6th Belmont Stakes (gr. I) shifted a bit. First came the news that Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Conquest Curlinate would be skipping the Belmont Stakes to await a start in the July 5th Queen’s Plate Stakes at Woodbine. According to the Churchill Downs Barn Notes for May 28th, Conquest Curlinate was not training as well as he usually does, leading to his withdrawal from the race: “It isn’t a soundness issue,” said trainer Mark Casse’s assistant trainer Norman Casse. “He just wasn’t training the way that we wanted him.”
But shortly after the announcement that Conquest Curlinate would pass the Belmont, another horse joined the field, that being recent allowance winner The Truth Or Else. Trained by Kenny McPeek, the son of Yes It’s True was soundly beaten by Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah in both the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) and Arkansas Derby (gr. I) earlier this year, but rebounded to win an 8.5-furlong allowance optional claiming race in impressive fashion at Belmont Park on May 22nd. The Equibase result chart of the race can be viewed here.
The Truth Or Else will be a longshot in the Belmont Stakes, but I think he has a big chance to be in the mix for victory. He’s won two of his three starts at Belmont Park–and he’s 2-for-2 when the track is fast at Belmont–and his blend of decent tactical speed and ability to rate should enable him to work out a nice trip in the Belmont. Furthermore, his pedigree (which can be viewed here) suggests that he will be able to handle the twelve-furlong distance of the Belmont, and trained Kenny McPeek has had good success with longshots in the Belmont–he trained Sarava to win the 2002 Belmont at odds of 70-1, and he trained Atigun to finish a close third in the 2012 Belmont at odds of 20-1. The Truth Or Else may be a longshot, but don’t count him out!
American Pharoah returned to the track this morning after a quite day yesterday, jogging a mile at Churchill Downs. According to the Churchill Downs Barn Notes, Bob Baffert’s assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes was pleased with American Pharoah’s exercise: “From what we saw I thought he looked very good,” said Barnes, who rode Baffert’s pony Smokey alongside American Pharoah during the exercise. “He jogged almost every step of the way and felt strong. He looked super good. I’ve been asked just about every question so far except for the big one: ‘Can he do it?’ and I think that he can.”
Following the above-mentioned changes to the Belmont Stakes field, here is the current list of expected starters for the race:
|American Pharoah||Victor Espinoza||Bob Baffert|
|Carpe Diem||Unknown||Todd Pletcher|
|Frammento||Mike Smith||Nick Zito|
|Frosted||Joel Rosario||Kiaran McLaughlin|
|Keen Ice||Kent Desormeaux||Dale Romans|
|Mubtaahij||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Mike de Kock|
|Tale of Verve||Gary Stevens||Dallas Stewart|
|The Truth Or Else||Edgar Prado||Kenny McPeek|
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