Daily Belmont Update: Monday, June 2

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6/2/2014
7:58 pm EDT

CALIFORNIA CHROME -- California Chrome returned to the Belmont Park main track on Monday morning, jogging once clockwise around the 1 1/2-mile oval under regular exercise rider Willie Delgado.

California Chrome walked the shedrow Sunday morning following Saturday's final serious work for the Belmont Stakes. The winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness is attempting to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

California Chrome is scheduled to resume galloping Tuesday morning, this time with trainer Art Sherman in attendance. The 77-year-old trainer returned to California following the Preakness, with his son, Alan, overseeing the colt's preparations in New York, but he'll be at the track Tuesday morning.


COMMANDING CURVE -- With trainer Dallas Stewart holding the shank, Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve enthusiastically grazed outside barn 9 this morning after putting in his final tune-up for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

"He looks great," Stewart said. "He ate good last night, cooled out good yesterday, has good energy today, and his appetite's good. Everything so far is good with him."

This is the second straight year that Stewart comes to New York with a horse that ran second in the Derby and skipped the Preakness. Golden Soul was ninth of 14 behind Palace Malice in the 2013 Belmont.

"This horse, we were able to train a little more steady and a little more aggressive," Stewart said. "The other horse lost a little weight out of it. It was muddy, and he ran so hard, it was hard to get him back on that plateau. He felt good enough to run, but it just took some time with him."


COMMISSIONER/MATTERNORN -- Matterhorn, most recently fourth in the Peter Pan Stakes, is confirmed for the Belmont Stakes.

After speaking this afternoon with ownership, president of owner Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Todd Pletcher said that the bay Tapit colt will be ridden by Joe Bravo.

On Sunday, Matterhorn breezed a half-mile in 49.90 seconds over Belmont's training track in company with stablemate Commissioner, who also is Belmont Stakes-bound. Commissioner was timed in 49.86.

"The distance is the biggest thing," Pletcher said. "I thought he ran OK in the Peter Pan and made a pretty good middle move. I was encouraged by the way he galloped out afterward that a mile and a half would be in his wheelhouse."

Bravo will be riding in his third Belmont Stakes and first in 16 years. He was ninth with In Contention in 1996 and last of 11 on Basic Trainee in 1998.

Commissioner broke his maiden at Saratoga last August and was off until winning his 3-year-old debut going 1 1/8 mile on Jan. 3 at Gulfstream Park. Since then, the A.P. Indy colt has finished off the board in the Fountain of Youth and Arkansas Derby, third in the Sunland Derby and second in the Peter Pan.

"I thought his Peter Pan was an encouraging effort," Pletcher said. "The main thing is, we've always felt like the mile and a half was kind of what he was looking for."

Pletcher said both horses are fine today following their Sunday workouts.


MATUSZAK -- Trainer Bill Mott said he continues to be pleased with the way Matuszak is progressing into the race.

The son of Bernardini walked Monday after going five furlongs in 1:00.94 in company with stablemate Maximus Mike on Sunday.

"He looks fine," Mott said. "He worked well, and he's feeling good."


RIDE ON CURLIN -- Ride On Curlin continues to flourish, trainer Billy Gowan says.

The bay son of Curlin walked the shed row this morning following his seven-furlong work in 1:28.03 over Belmont's main track on Sunday.

Saturday's Belmont Stakes will be the seventh start this year for Ride On Curlin, who was seventh behind California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby.

"He's perfect. Real good. I couldn't hold him on the ground," Gowan said. "He was like that the day after the Derby, too. He's just a tough horse; you can't knock him out. I worked him seven-eighths yesterday and he was bucking and playing this morning. I had to walk him with the lip chain. It's pretty amazing really. You don't find horses like that every day."

Once again, Ride On Curlin shares a shed row with California Chrome. It was the closest any horse has gotten to the Triple Crown candidate during the streak.

"It's fun being in it, for sure. Being part of the Triple Crown is great," Gowan said. "This is just another race to me. You pull the girth the same as you do on a $5,000 claimer. It's a fact. You don't do anything different. You bridle them, you put the chamois on, you pull the girth and hope the rider doesn't screw it up."


SOCIAL INCLUSION -- Connections continue to string out an announcement about what's next for Social Inclusion.

A decision is now expected on Wednesday morning, and that will be the deadline because entries will be taken that morning. Ron Sanchez said over the weekend that he'd disclose something on Monday.

Sanchez said the colt is "70-30" to run in the Woody Stephens after having trouble schooling at the gate. He is scheduled to school again during training hours on Wednesday.

"This morning we schooled him and he was acting up a little bit," Sanchez said. "He started getting a little bit nervous and sweating, and we have to work on that. He was kind of nervous before he went to the gate the first time, but he was calm. When he went back again, he was acting up. We have to do it again on Wednesday and then we'll see. If the entries were taken today, we would not run (in the Belmont). It wouldn't make any sense."

Wherever he runs next, Social Inclusion will have a new rider. Irad Ortiz, Jr., leading the current Belmont Park meet in wins (24) and mounts (138), replaces Luis Contreras, who had been aboard for each of the horse's first four starts.

"He's a local rider, and he's in a good frame of mind," Sanchez said. "I like the way he rides, and he fits with the horse. Definitely, no matter which race we are going, he has to take the lead. We are focused on the future, and to keep this horse healthy. He's healthy, so we'll see what happens."

Looking down the road, Sanchez mentioned the Haskell Invitational, the Travers Stakes and the Breeders' Cup as targets for Social Inclusion.

"We have time. We are going to do what's best for the horse," he said. "There's a lot of good races coming up."


TONALIST -- He appears to have bounced out of his Saturday morning work in good shape, according to the colt's trainer Christophe Clement. The colt jogged Sunday and galloped Monday.

"He went a mile and a quarter today and trained well," said Clement on Monday. "Everything is good; we'll plan on the same tomorrow. He schooled yesterday at lunch time and might school once more, either Wednesday or Thursday."

Tonalist went five furlongs in 1:00.11 over a tight Belmont main track, working in company with Life In Shambles an hour before California Chrome put in his final serious work before the June 7 Belmont Stakes.

The son of Tapit captured the Peter Pan at Belmont by four lengths over another likely Belmont starter, Commissioner. The Belmont Stakes will mark only his fifth career start.

Clement says he has familiarized himself with the prospective field, but that ultimately Tonalist's strategy is in the hands of Joel Rosario.

"I've got a pretty good idea who's running, but I'm going to leave that up to him," said Clement. "I train and the jockey rides, and he's very good at what he does. My deal is to bring him there as fit as possible and feeling as good as possible and perfectly sound, and he will have to worry about the race."


WICKED STRONG -- TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong had a quiet morning, walking the shed row of trainer Jimmy Jerkens' barn following Sunday's bullet five-furlong breeze in 59.10 seconds over Belmont's training track.

"We just wanted a decent work, and we got it," Jerkens, 55, said. "He's doing good."

Wicked Strong stumbled in the May 3 Kentucky Derby and ran into traffic before rallying to be fourth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by California Chrome. Jerkens bypassed the Preakness to point for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

"Unless you thought your horse had a real good excuse, which I guess we did, we just thought it would have been better to skip the Preakness," Jerkens said. "We thought we had the best shot in the Belmont out of all of them, even before we went to Kentucky. There's nothing like the Derby, but we thought the Belmont fit the horse a little better."

A victory by Wicked Strong would follow in the family tradition established by Jerkens' father, Allen Jerkens, now 85, who gained a reputation as the "Giant Killer" for upsetting horses such as Secretariat, Kelso and Buckpasser.

"You can't concede races to horses," Jimmy Jerkens said. "You have to take a shot."

Jerkens said his father, now based at Gulfstream Park year-round, did not offer any words of wisdom for the Belmont.

"No, and I didn't think he would, either," Jerkens said. "If there was something glaring that he thought he should say something about, I'm sure he would. He's a man of few words."