Belmont Stakes Countdown–May 28, 2015

Belmont Stakes Countdown–May 28, 2015

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.”

Tomorrow morning will be a very busy one in the lead-up to the Belmont Stakes, as at least five Belmont Contenders are expected to turn in timed workouts. Those five are the Todd Pletcher-trained trio of Carpe Diem, Madefromlucky, and Materiality, as well as Preakness Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Tale of Verve and Kentucky Derby (gr. I) fourth-place finisher Frosted. I will be posting the details of all the workouts here on The Turf Board tomorrow morning, and you can keep track of all the action as it unfolds by following me on Twitter at @J_Keelerman.


Following the above-mentioned changes to the Belmont Stakes field, here is the current list of expected starters for the race:

Horse Jockey Trainer
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
Madefromlucky Unknown Todd Pletcher
Materiality Unknown Todd Pletcher
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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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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