PALACE MALICE -- Both Palace Malice and trainer Todd Pletcher were feeling good Sunday morning following the colt’s 3 1/4-length victory over Preakness winner Oxbow and Kentucky Derby winner Orb in the Belmont Stakes.
“He is a remarkable horse,” said Pletcher. “He bounces out of his races really well. It was a tough race, a demanding race, and he surprises me how resilient he is. He was feeling very good this morning.”
With three different horses having won the Triple Crown races, the 3-year-old division remains a work in progress, said the trainer.
“It’s not coincidental at all that the horse who won the Belmont ran in the Derby and skipped the Preakness,” said Pletcher, who won the 2007 Belmont with the filly Rags to Riches. “If you want to win the Belmont, it makes a lot of sense to sit out the middle one. The fresh horse is always going to have an edge, in my opinion.
“I think it did more to leave the division wide open,” he added. “Everyone kind of goes into the rest of the summer and the fall of the year with similar resumes. I don’t think there’s a clear-cut leader. Largely it will depend on what happens in the fall of the year. It will be interesting to see how they stack up when that happens.”
For Palace Malice, that path likely will run through Saratog and the Grade IIJim Dandy on July 27, followed by the Grade I Travers on Aug. 24.
“Honestly, the way he's feeling this morning, I don’t know that I am going to be able to give him much time off,” Pletcher said. “He’s just that kind of horse. He’s a high-energy, good-feeling horse. He’ll go back to the track four days from now. We’ll probably carry forward to the Jim Dandy.”
OXBOW / WILL TAKE CHARGE -- Belmont runner-up Oxbow departed Belmont Park early Sunday morning and was expected to arrive at D. Wayne Lukas’s Churchill Downs barn by 6:30 p.m.
“Everyone was tickled with his performance,” said Leigh Bentley, assistant to Lukas. “He ran super and seemed to come back great. Everyone was quite pleased.”
Oxbow, who ran sixth behind Orb in the Kentucky Derby, was a front-running 1 3/4-length winner of the Preakness. In Saturday’s Belmont, the Awesome Again colt was forwardly placed through an opening half-mile in :46.66 seconds and three quarters in 1:10.95, struck the lead with a mile going in 1:36.47 and held on well to finish 3 1/4 lengths behind Palace Malice, who was never far behind those early fractions.
No notes on Will Take Charge.
ORB -- Shug McGaughey said Kentucky Derby winner Orb, who finished third in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, came out of the race in good shape but was “a little tired.”
“I went down and looked at him a little later and he was kind of hanging his head,” he said. “He was tired. He’ll get a good month of rehab time and see where it takes us.”
McGaughey said the five-week run through the Triple Crown series was a “thrill in a lot of ways.”
“I understand the game well enough to know you can’t win them all,” he said. “He won five in a row, three graded stakes, two grade I’s – not bad. Hopefully we can get him back on his feet and get him back going in the right direction. I would love to run him in the Travers.
“I was satisfied with the decisions I made,” he added. “I don’t think I took a horse over there that wasn’t ready to run. To try to make up that much ground is almost impossible because it’s so tiring. Those horses shook loose and we couldn’t catch them.”
McGaughey said he shouldn’t have been surprised by Palace Malice’s victory.
“Palace Malice was (a surprise) but he shouldn’t have been because I know how high Todd is on him,” he said. “I know he’d been working really well. And Niall Brennan, who sold him, said that Todd was really high on him.”
There's sad news about McGaughey's Point of Entry, winner of the Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap. He suffered a non-displaced condylar fracture of his left-hind cannon bone and will undergo surgery in the next few days at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky.
McGaughey said his staff discovered the injury early Sunday morning, and veterinarian Dr. James Hunt came to the barn and performed an X-ray.
“He’ll be on the shelf for a while,” McGaughey said. “How long, I don’t know. We took the bandage off, and his ankle was blown up.”
McGaughey said surgery will be performed on Point of Entry by equine orthopedic surgeon Dr. Larry Bramlage. He expects one or two screws to be inserted into the leg.
Bramlage said Sunday afternoon he had examined the X-rays and found the fracture was not a complete separation.
“It does need screws,” he said. “This is the kind of fracture we treat all the time. We expect him to come back and run well. It requires surgery, but it’s a pretty responsive injury.”
McGaughey remains hopeful Point of Entry, owned by the Phipps Stable and Frank Stronach, can return to the races this year in time for the Breeders’ Cup Turf in November.
“I don’t know what the down time is until (Bramlage) looks at him,” McGaughey said. “He said maybe two weeks stall, two weeks hand walk and them maybe start riding him under tack. But I’m not going to be too hopeful on that. Best-case scenario, maybe we can get a race into him in September. Best-case scenario, maybe the Breeders’ Cup is not out of the question. The intention all along was to retire him at the end of the year. I don’t know whether Mr. Stronach and Mr. Phipps will want to roll the dice and see what happens. If (Bramlage) says it might be a long rehab time, we might have to pull the rug out from under him. I’m hoping, myself, that’s not the case. The primary goal was the Breeders’ Cup.”
INCOGNITO -- Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin reported Sunday morning that Incognito emerged from his fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes in good shape and will point toward the Saratoga meet for his next start.
“He came out great; he’s happy,” McLaughlin said. “He ran well. I don’t know where we go, but obviously the Travers would be great to point for, with his pedigree. If he could ever win that, he’d be a nice stallion. We feel like he belongs with them, anyway.”
A gray son of A.P. Indy, Incognito came from mid-pack to finish behind Palace Malice, Preakness winner Oxbow and Kentucky Derby champion Orb in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, beaten just six lengths.
It was the seventh career start and only second in a stakes for Incognito, who was ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. for the first time, replacing injured regular rider Mike Luzzi.
“He ran a great race, and I thought Irad rode a great race for his first Belmont,” McLaughlin said. “He galloped out strong again yesterday. I don’t think he ever gets tired. I don’t think it matters if it’s a mile or a mile and a half, he just seems to keep going.”
McLaughlin believed the Belmont fit perfectly into a Triple Crown storyline that included the first Derby for trainer Shug McGaughey, and a Preakness win for 77-year-old D. Wayne Lukas, his training mentor, 50-year-old jockey Gary Stevens, Dogwood Stable's Cot Campbell, former Lukas assistant Pletcher and Mike Smith.
“The winner was impressive. He ran very well. I didn’t see that coming,” McLaughlin said. “All three races are good stories for American racing, with Wayne and Gary and Stuart Janney and the Phippses and Shug in the Derby. And yesterday, Cot, he was the original syndicator. It was nice for him to win.”
MIDNIGHT TABOO / OVERANALYZE / REVOLUTIONARY / UNLIMITED BUDGET -- While Pletcher made history by saddling a record five starters in the Belmont, he does not think that will happen in the Mid-Summer Derby.
“There’s a lot of nice races around so I’m sure we’ll find spots for them,” he said. “We’ll try to spread them out as best as we can, but the Travers is kind of the next big coveted prize.
"Unlimited Budget (sixth in the Belmont) will most likely go to the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 20 if she comes out of this well, which so far she has.”
Revolutionary (fifth), Overanalyze (seventh) and Midnight Taboo (twelfth) also returned from their efforts in good order, said Pletcher, as did Forty Tales, winner of the Grade II Woody Stephens presented by NYRA Rewards.
“We’d probably look at the Amsterdam for Forty Tales,” he said.
BUSY MAN -- While Pletcher said he did not get to sleep until midnight, he was up at 4:00 this morning to get back to the barn and work a number of horses for upcoming races. Among them were Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar (:49.48 training track 35/51) and Dreaming of Julia (:48.24 training track 8/51), both of whom are pointing to the Coaching Club American Oaks, and Verrazano (:47.41 training track 1/51) who will run next in the Grade III Pegasus on June 16 at Monmouth Park. Also on the worktab for Pletcher were Discreet Dancer (:48.62 training track 14/51), Kauai Katie (:49.42 training track 31/51) and Dark Thunder (1:01.46 training track 1/10).
FREEDOM CHILD -- As disappointed as he was in Freedom Child’s 13th-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, trainer Tom Albertrani said he was pleased with how well the Malibu Moon colt, who was the third choice in the betting at 8-1, looked on Sunday morning.
“He came out good,” Albertrani said. “It was maybe a little too much and a little too far. I know the track was a little bit on the faster side, but it’s hard to say. They were kind of packed up together. The winner was just sitting a length or two off of us into the first turn and coming out of the turn, so maybe we just didn’t get the trip.
“I was hoping that he’d show up a little bit better. He looked great. What are you going to do? He had trained great. I couldn’t have a horse look better for a race.”
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, St. Elias Stable and breeder Spendthrift Farm, Freedom Child sat right behind fractions of :23.11 and :46.66 set by long shot Frac Daddy but began to drop back with a half-mile to run and wound up beating only the pacesetter.
The Belmont followed an eye-opening 13 1/4-length victory in the Grade II Peter Pan for Freedom Child on May 11 at Belmont Park, which came after the chestnut was declared a non-starter in the Grade I Wood Memorial.
“He was pretty aggressive,” Albertrani said. “He was rating fine. He was sitting in a good spot in second and it looked like he was traveling well. Oxbow came up alongside him and Luis (Saez) said he kept pushing him along and he never had a chance to just make him relax. Maybe he just used up a lot of energy.”
Freedom Child will now be pointed toward the Saratoga meet and 3-year-old races like the Grade II Jim Dandy and Grade I Travers.
“We’ll just go shorter,” Albertrani said. “We’ll look at Saratoga, the Jim Dandy or something like that. There’s the Travers. It depends on how he comes back. We’ve got options. Everything depends on how he bounces back. If he comes back like he did out of the Wood and runs another Peter Pan, we’ll play it by ear.”
OTHER BELMONT RUNNERS -- Notes unavailable.
KUDOS TO TRACK MAINTENANCE -- Trainers Todd Pletcher, Shug McGaughey and Kiaran McLaughlin were among those who had high praise for NYRA vice-president of facilities and racing surfaces Glen Kozak, whose crew had the main track in tip-top shape Saturday after being pounded with as much as five inches of rain Friday into Saturday morning.
“Glen did an outstanding job of maintaining the track,” said Pletcher. “It wasn’t over-harrowed. Those guys did a remarkable job. It was a good, safe track after the rain.”
Added McGaughey, whose Kentucky Derby-winning Orb finished third: “The track was in fabulous condition, and that’s a tribute to Glen Kozak.”
“I think the NYRA track crew, and Glen Kozak deserve a lot of credit,” said McLaughlin. “They did a great job to get the track to be fast. It looked great.”
Muddy for the first five races on Saturday’s card, the track was upgraded to “good” for the sixth race and “fast” by the time the ninth race went off at 4:42 p.m. The Belmont went off at 6:38 p.m.