By Dick Downey
Updated with Hofburg workout
One horse is out and another one may be in the Belmont Stakes from Todd Pletcher's stable.
This morning at Belmont Park, Audible was noticeably absent from the worktab, while Vino Rosso and Noble Indy worked in company for Pletcher, going four furlongs in 47.04 (1/36), breezing, per NYRA clockers.
On the watch of DRF's Mike Welsch, they galloped out five furlongs in 59.93 and six in 113.04 Javier Castellano was on Noble Indy, and John Velazquez was on Vino Rosso. Noble Indy, who has raced in blinkers, was without them today.
WinStar Farm campaigns Justify and Audible with other partners. Audible, who was said to be scheduled to breeze today, didn't do so. It's official that he will not compete in the Belmont, based on published reports.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reported this morning about a confirmed email from Jack Wolf, who owns minority racing rights and no breeding rights in both Justify and Audible. The email from Wolf to his partners that said Audible has a minor injury.
“Elliott Walden reported to me this morning that Audible has a gluteal muscle strain that will take him out of training for five days,” Wolf wrote. “This is not a major injury, but both Todd and Elliott have decided to freshen the horse up and bring him back for some of the bigger summer stakes races.”
Vino Rosso, owned by Mike Repole and St. Elias Stable, finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby and is considered definite for the Belmont.
Reports say that Noble Indy is now being considered for the Belmont. The colt finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby and is co-owned by WinStar and Repole.
Justify continued his training Friday morning at Churchill Downs with a 1 1/2-mile gallop under Humberto Gomez amid reports and denials that his breeding rights have been sold to Coolmore. According to WinStar's Elliott Walden, a deal is in negotiation but an agreement hasn't been struck.
On the track, Justify had another good morning.
“It was a very good morning,” Bob Baffert’s chief assistant Jimmy Barnes said. “We did exactly what Bob wanted us to do. He galloped a little bit further today, but he (Baffert) told us, once again, to take it easy with him. It’s nice to gallop out there all alone. We wanted him to go an easy pace and he was able to do so without any traffic.”
Baffert is expected to be at Churchill Downs later this weekend or early next week, according to Barnes. Justify is scheduled to be flown to New York from Louisville on Wednesday, June 6.
Also training Friday during the exclusive window from 7:30 to 7:40 ET for horses preparing for the Belmont Stakes was Preakness runner-up Bravazo, who galloped 1 1/2 mile with exercise rider Danielle Rosier aboard for D. Wayne Lukas
Preakness third finisher Tenfold galloped about 1 1/2 mile under Angel Garcia for Steve Asmussen.
“We can’t just let Justify have it,” Lukas joked. "He bounced out of the Preakness in great shape. Justify is the real deal, but my horse is very talented as well. I don’t think there is any issue with him going 1 1/2 miles. It’s a test to every horse in the race because no one has done that before.”
Meanwhile at Saratoga, Hofburg breezed six furlongs in 1.13:43 (1/1) on the Oklahoma training track for trainer Bill Mott. Hofburg is the second choice in the futures books for the Belmont Stakes.
“I thought it was a very good work on the training track,” Mott told Thoroughbred Daily News. “The best part about it was he looked like he was moving very well. We went six furlongs with him and from the half-mile pole, he was: 48 1/5; 1:00 3/5; 1:13 3/5; galloped out good and came home in good order. It looked like he took a couple of deep breaths and caught his breath in a hurry. We have a lot of respect for Justify, but on the same token, we don’t want to hand him the Belmont on a silver platter. If he wins it, we’re going to make him work for it.”
Potential Belmont Stakes Field
The Belmont Stakes field could possibly be comprised of the following 11 horses: Bandua (trained by Dermot Weld), Blended Citizen (Doug O’Neill), Bravazo (D. Wayne Lukas), Free Drop Billy (Dale Romans), Gronkowski (Chad Brown), Hofburg (Bill Mott), Justify (Baffert), Noble Indy (Todd Pletcher), Restoring Hope (Baffert), Tenfold (Steve Asmussen) and Vino Rosso (Pletcher).