Sunday, June 12, 2016
CREATOR - Steve Asmussen reported the son of Tapit is in tip-top shape today.
"I am obviously very proud of the horse. He's very proud this morning and he's very alert. I'm kind of surprised by his energy. He ate up last night," said Asmussen. "I got up to watch the replay every 15 minutes. I thought it was a great race. I thought Irad did a masterful job with him and with every decision he made," he said. "I really thought the horse tried to win late. He just really, really laid out there and dug in, and I personally feel very fortunate for his effort."
Asmussen finished fourth in 2011 with Nehro and in 2007 eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin came up short by a head after battling Rags to Riches down the lane.
It took Creator six tries until he graduated from the maiden ranks at Oaklawn Park Feb. 27, and Asmussen credited his assistant Darren Fleming for the colt's remarkable progression in becoming the Arkansas Derby winner. Asmussen said the mindset Creator learned at Oaklawn made a difference in the Belmont.
"You walk over, you're in the holding barn, there are 13 head, not much air moving in there, 10 times more people than you need under normal circumstances, but he stayed focused. The whole race, with the traffic, he stayed focused. He never gave anything back. He stayed on the bridle," the trainer said. "I mentioned Irad's trip with him, but he stayed right underneath him. He stuck his head out at the wire. The pageantry of it didn't overwhelm him. I think that's where the other win comes in.
"I was disappointed that we may have lost our window in the Derby with this horse, so I'm glad that he didn't sour off of that trip, which easily he could have. For the Belmont they talk about giving them time. Five weeks off the Derby ain't a lot of time. He didn't sour. He was willing to do it again and he didn't hold it against us, and it worked out for him," Asmussen said.
Asmussen said that Creator will be pointed to the Travers Stakes.
"I very much think that right now, with all of the pressure we've put on him, and the amount of racing that he's had this year, he needs a little mental freshening to get away from it for a bit," said the trainer. "When he wins the Belmont in New York, you would love for Creator to be at his best for the Travers. But I think we need to do the responsible thing and let him let down a little bit, and then see how he responds. That is respect for the effort he gave us yesterday."
DESTIN / STRADIVARI - Todd Pletcher reported that Destin and Stradivari exited the race in good shape.
"Both looked good this morning," Pletcher said. "I was pleased with the way they both bounced out of it pretty quickly for a mile-and-a-half race."
With an eye on the Travers for both colts, Pletcher is considering a few different possibilities to get them there. The Jim Dandy and Haskell are either/or races for both. Pletcher pointed out Stradivari is also eligible to run in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga on July 29 as a prep for the Travers.
Pletcher said he didn't anticipate that Destin would be as close to the pace as he was.
"I actually anticipated that Stradivari more likely would have been following Gettysburg, and Destin kind of left the gate a little sharper," the trainer said. "He was the first one to make that run and the first one to put pressure on (Gettysburg).
"Javier waited as long as he could, and he kind of inherited the lead," he continued. "I never really thought watching it that he lost focus, pricked his ears, and looked at something. I think he kept digging and kept fighting. Who knows if he would have been loose on the lead. He has never given me the impression of the kind of horse that would know what to do with that, but, again, we don't know."
Pletcher said he spoke to Elliott Walden, WinStar's president/CEO and racing manager, and told him he thought it would be best that Gettysburg did not return to his care. In the post-race press conference after the Belmont Stakes, Walden's remarks indicated that Gettysburg would return to Pletcher.
"I spoke to Elliott this morning, and I think it is probably best - I don't think it is a good look if he comes back to us really. I think it is better if it doesn't happen," Pletcher said.
EXAGGERATOR - Exaggerator walked the shedrow Sunday morning, appearing to be no worse for wear following his 11th-place finish in the Belmont.
"He's good. I walked him myself at about 6:30 this morning. He's his same, vibrant self, bright-eyed, ate up his feed last night, legs are clean," trainer Keith Desormeaux said. "Maybe a little more subdued than he usually is, but that stands to reason. Good, happy and still has that confident look in his eye, so we're good. His trainer, I don't know about him. He's still trying to shake the cobwebs but, all in all, it's a good morning."
Exaggerator and Japanese import Lani were the only two horses to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
"The only thing I can settle on right now is I really don't think he liked the surface, even though Kent disagrees. Kent only has two minutes to figure things out, I have 24 hours," he said. "What sticks out in my mind is the fact that in the three races - Derby, Preakness, Santa Anita Derby - Kent's first comment when he came back to the winner's circle was, 'Keith he's cooled out already.' In other words, he caught his breath, he's calm, his heart rate's down. He's back, before he got back to take his saddle off.
"Yesterday he panted and gasped the air and looked a little fatigued for 45 minutes after the race. I can guarantee the races haven't had the toll on him. He struggled with the track. He gave us his to try to win and it got to him. That's what I'm settling on. I think he didn't get hold of the track as well as he needed to in order to win the race. If it's a mile and a quarter, would he have won? I don't think he was ahead at the quarter pole. It wasn't the distance. It was the fact that he struggled with the track."
Exaggerator was trying to become the first Derby runner-up since Nashua in 1955 to win the final two-thirds of the Triple Crown.
"All in all, what an experience. This is what we live for. This is what we work all our lives to get to this level," Desormeaux said. "It still amazes me that so many people are interested in horses and their actions and their characteristics and traits. That's what I fell in love with as a kid, so it's so cool that so many people are interested as well. I hope we didn't disappoint them. He's a good horse. Everybody wants to be like American Pharoah, but that's not the way it is. I hate that he disappointed as the favorite, that's always hurtful, but the horse will be back for more. It's cool to see so much interest in what the mainstream media describes as a dying sport. It seems alive and well to me."
Desormeaux said Exaggerator will remain at Belmont Park through the end of the meet before shipping to Saratoga for the Jim Dandy July 30 and the Travers.
GOVERNOR MALIBU - Christophe Clement said it was a difficult trip the colt encountered racing along the rail the majority of the way, but he said he is pleased with Governor Malibu's ability to be competitive in graded stakes competition.
"So far, so good," added Clement. "I thought he ran a really good race. I will call it no racing luck from the quarter- pole on. The pacemaker was all over the place. Rosario had to check twice, but he ran a really strong race and showed that he really belongs with them."
LANI - Having arrived in the U.S. on April 1 and competed in every leg of the Triple Crown, Japanese import Lani entered the Belmont Park's Quarantine barn Sunday morning to begin preparations for his return journey home on June 19.
Training at Belmont since his ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and finishing fifth in the Preakness, Lani's team was proud of the colt's overall efforts in the United States and were looking forward to returning to America with future prospects according to Kieta Tanaka, agent for owner Koji Maeda.
"He came out of the race well," said Tanaka. "We thought he ran a good race and improved along the way, especially here in New York he really took a liking to the track."
Tanaka said that Lani's entourage enjoyed with the day's card and added that the group would love to come back with more runners in the future.
"I like New York racing," added Tanaka. "The experience was great, and everyone was friendly. We will definitely look forward to returning in the future with more horses."
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS - Suddenbreakingnews has exited his ninth-place finish in the Belmont in good order, according to Brandon Velarde, trainer Donnie Von Hemel's Remington Park-based exercise rider. He reported that the ridgling will be flown to Louisville on Monday afternoon.
The second wagering choice in the Belmont Stakes at 5-1, Suddenbreakingnews raced wide before fading in the stretch to finish 9 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
"It's a deep track. Maybe 'Big Sandy' got to him a little bit, but he's shown before that he's that caliber horse, and we live to fight another day," said Velarde.