FREEDOM CHILD -- With the threat of rain overnight, trainer Tom Albertrani opted to give Peter Pan winner Freedom Child a strong gallop Sunday morning at Belmont Park. The Malibu Moon ridgling covered six furlongs on the main track, opening up through the lane under a hold by rider Luis Saez.
“We just let him stretch his legs,” Albertrani said. “I was listening to the weather and it sounds like there’s going to be some heavy rain coming tonight. I was hoping to wait until tomorrow, but I said, ‘Let’s just get it done today while we’ve got a good track.’ Actually, he went really good. On the clock, he probably went a couple of thirteens, and a twelve, and a thirteen in between the quarter pole and the mile pole. It was a good, strong gallop out. We just wanted him to do it easy.”
Albertrani proclaimed major preparations over for Freedom Child, who is campaigned by West Point Thoroughbreds, St. Elias Stable, and Spendthrift Farm.
“As I get closer I could even let him have another little gallop out, just to let him do a little something, but we’re good right now,” the trainer said. “He’s ready. He looks good and we want to keep him that way.”
INCOGNITO -- Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin pronounced Incognito ready for the Belmont Stakes on Sunday after the colt breezed four furlongs on the Belmont training track in 48.25 under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Incognito began the work just off Irsaal, drew alongside his stablemate entering the stretch, and finished within a head of his workmate.
“He galloped out well and worked with a nice horse, Irsaal,” said McLaughlin. “He basically hasn’t missed any days of training or racing all year. We weren’t there to get him fit. Just what we wanted.”
Incognito, who will be carrying the colors of Godolphin Racing for the first time in the Belmont, is exiting a fifth-place finish in the Grade II Peter Pan on May 11. He has two wins in six career starts.
MIDNIGHT TABOO / OVERANALYZE / PALACE MALICE / REVOLUTIONARY / UNLIMITED BUDGET -- All five of Todd Pletcher’s Belmont contenders breezed Sunday morning, after which the trainer said a final decision likely would be made Monday on whether the filly Unlimited Budget and/or Midnight Taboo would join Overanalyze, Palace Malice and Revolutionary in the race.
Pletcher said he would be discussing the pair’s status with their owner, Mike Repole, adding that Unlimited Budget, who went a half-mile in a bullet 47.55 in company with Capo Bastone, was “80-90 percent” certain to run. He said Midnight Taboo, credited with a five-furlong move in 1:00.88, was “50-50” to run.
“Basically, he is holding the cards in terms of how many we end up running,” said Pletcher. “With Midnight Taboo, the Easy Goer Stakes is an option that day. It’s just a matter of how aggressive Mike wants to be, and take a shot with a horse that’s lightly raced but has some talent. It would be asking lot for him to win the Belmont in his fourth start, but strange things have happened.”
Pletcher, who won the 2007 Belmont with the filly Rags to Riches, said he was pleased with the way Unlimited Budget went today on the outside of her workmate, as opposed to last week’s move on the inside.
“She worked well, really well,” he said. “I thought she was full of run throughout and finished up strongly and galloped out well, and seemed to cool out well. It wasn’t so much about who she was with, it was trying to execute the work properly. The biggest difference was with her on the outside today, she seemed to get over the ground well.”
While Unlimited Budget and Midnight Taboo worked after the renovation break on the main track, Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice (4 furlongs, 47.56), Repole’s Overanalyze (48.01) and WinStar Farm’s Revolutionary (48.51) went out shortly after 6 a.m.
“I thought we had a very good morning,” he said. “All the horses seemed to work pretty well; they were all almost mirror images of each other. I can’t say that one stood out from the others.”
ORB -- Shug McGaughey this morning gave the go-ahead for Kentucky Derby winner Orb to face Preakness winner Oxbow in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes after the colt worked a half-mile in :48.30 over the main track at Belmont Park.
With regular exercise rider Jennifer Patterson aboard and working in company with Grade 1 winner Hymn Book, the Malibu Moon colt was caught by NYRA clockers going in splits of :13.05 and :25.01. Pulling away from his workmate in the final yards, Orb galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.48.
“He started off nice and steady, which Shug wanted, and finished up strong,” said Patterson. “I gave him his head at the eighth pole and he opened up his stride. He did everything very easily. I didn’t have to encourage him at all. He came off the track and he was kind of spooking and playing, but in a good way. He’s just happy and feeling good. Everything went right this morning.”
McGaughey said he was pleased with the move and said the 1 1/2-mile Belmont was “a go” if everything continues to go well.
“He hasn’t missed a beat,” said the trainer, who won the Belmont in 1989 with Easy Goer. “Everything has been A-1 forward. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you. I think the Belmont is a race that stands on its own, and we would love to be able to compete in it and love to be able to have a good chance to win, and go from there.”
FACE-OFF -- The race will be the 21st Belmont in which the Derby and Preakness winner square off, although Orb and Oxbow will have plenty of company with as many as 15 possible to enter. Expected in addition to Todd Pletcher’s contingent, Freedom Child and Incognito are Giant Finish, Golden Soul, Will Take Charge, Always in a Tiz, Vyjack and possibly Frac Daddy.
In head-to-head meetings, the Derby winner has won the Belmont five times and the Preakness winner nine times. Most recently, Derby winner Animal Kingdom finished fifth and Preakness winner Shackleford sixth in the 2011 Belmont won by Ruler On Ice.
Orb was favored to win the Preakness, but he finished fourth on a day during which McGaughey said “nothing went right.”
“It does shake your confidence a little bit,” said McGaughey of the loss. “I remember back in ’89 when Easy Goer got beat in the Derby, I attributed it to the (sloppy) racetrack. But I didn’t know, because I didn’t have any comparison. Are we as good as Sunday Silence, or is he two or three lengths better than us? Then we ran in the Preakness and got beat a nose, and I knew we were comparable to him. I think if things go right, next Saturday I think you’ll see a different horse than we saw two weeks ago.”