Edited by Dick Downey
POST TIME FOR THE BELMONT STAKES - Post time for the Belmont Stakes is scheduled for approximately 6:37 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 8 (7:37 a.m. JST on Sunday, June 11) and will be broadcast live on NBC.
TWO-DAY PICK 6 - NYRA Bets is offering a special Belmont Stakes Racing Festival Two-Day Pick 6 wager with a mandatory payout. With a 20-cent base minimum and a 15 percent takeout, the Pick 6 will include six graded stakes during the last two days of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, Friday and Saturday, culminating with the Belmont Stakes.
The Two-Day Pick 6 will kick off with theTrue North, carded as race 8 on Friday. The second leg will come two races later in the Belmont Gold Cup. Action then switches to Saturday with four consecutive grade 1's, starting with the Woody Stephens, race 8. The fourth leg will come in race 9 with the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap. Next is the Manhattan, and the Belmont Stakes caps things off.
BOURBON WAR - Mark Hernon is the Director of Sales at Gainesway, where Tapit stands, so naturally he's excited about the prospects in Belmont 151, which include Bourbon War, who is the first foal out of grade I winner My Conquestadory.
Bourbon War's last race can be looked past," Hernon said. "He's a nice horse and has a license to be running well when it really matters."
EVERFAST - No notes.
INTREPID HEART / SPINOFF - Today, both horses galloped 1 1/4 mile over the main track Wednesday and stood in the gate.
Trainer Todd Pletcher says there can be a home track advantage in the Belmont, but it's more important to bring the right horse.
"I think you can make that argument from the standpoint of training on a mile and a half track," Pletcher said. "Getting accustomed to that can be helpful, but I think the surface is probably such that more horses are going to handle it than Churchill.
"Churchill, I think, can be the quirkiest of the three. It seems like our horses have trained well here, but at the same time, you have to bring the right kind of horse with the right kind of pedigree and right kind of disposition. I also think having five weeks and being based here is an edge."
Mark Hernon is the Director of Sales at Gainesway, where Tapit stands, so naturally he's excited about the prospects in Belmont 151, including Intrepid Heart.
Intrepid Heart is out of Flaming Heart who is by Touch Gold - winner of the 1997 Belmont Stakes - and also produced graded stakes winner Commissioner, who was a close second behind Tonalist in the 2014 Belmont.
"It seems like Todd Pletcher is always competitive. He got nosed out with Destin a few years ago and won with the filly Rags to Riches, who beat Curlin. I expect his horses to jump up and run," Hernon said.
The lightly raced Intrepid Heart, who will only be making his fourth career start, makes up for experience with one of the strongest pedigrees in the race and has been impressing his trainer with his training as has his stablemate.
"I think Intrepid Heart is clearly bred for this race," Pletcher said. "He's by Tapit, who's had a lot of success in the race. He's out of a Touch Gold mare. Touch Gold won the Belmont. He's a half to Commissioner (second in the 2014 Belmont). If you look at his pedigree, it's AP Indy and Seattle Slew. There's a lot of Belmont history supporting his pedigree. And, out of the three Triple Crown races, I think pedigree plays the biggest role in this one.
"In addition to that, Intrepid Heart and Spinoff have both trained similar to our other Belmont horses that were successful here. Intrepid Heart's last breeze, I had him galloping out a mile in 1:38 3/5 and in Spinoff's penultimate breeze, I had him galloping out in 1:37 3/5, which historically is what horses like Palace Malice and Rags to Riches did. Even Commissioner and Destin, who didn't win, but ran well, had similar breezes."
Spinoff will be making his first start finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby over a sloppy track May 4, but Pletcher said he can toss that race out.
"I have to," Pletcher said. "He ran well in the Louisiana Derby. And, if you look back on that race, with Country House and War of Will being in there, it was a legitimate prep race. The horse has trained really well. We always thought there was potential there. We could see the Thursday before the Derby when it was sloppy with the way he galloped over the track, he didn't love it. Manny Franco said he didn't handle it. So, you draw a line through it and hope he runs to the way he's been training. He's still a lightly raced horse so there's plenty of room for improvement."
Neither Intrepid Heart nor Spinoff figure to be among the betting favorites, but that's just fine with their trainer.
"I think there are some advantages to it," Pletcher said. "Like I was saying yesterday, if you're coming in with Justify or American Pharoah or California Chrome, it's a lot different when there's a Triple Crown at stake. For this, it's a big race and everyone wants to win it, but there's not that same kind of pressure as when there's a chance for a Triple Crown."
JOEVIA - Trainer Gregg Sacco will be hoping for a Grade 1 double on Belmont Stakes Day when he saddles a pair of horses at opposite ends of the odds board in Mind Control and Joevia.
Joevia, a dark bay son of Shanghai Bobby, is listed as the longest odds on the Belmont Stakes morning line at 30-. The lightly-raced Joevia won his only start as a 2-year-old and has hit the board in three of four sophomore starts, finishing second in the Jimmy Winkfield and Private Terms along with a win last out in the Long Branch at Monmouth. The lone blemish came in the Wood Memorial, where he cut across the face of the field from the outermost post en route to finishing seventh and subsequently was disqualified and placed last of 11.
Sacco said the Long Branch effort demonstrated that the colt is back on the right track.
"He's an improving colt and he did it the right way - and the main thing is, he came out of it the right way," said Sacco. "We haven't got to the bottom of him yet. He was a late developing horse and missed most of his 2-year-old campaign. He ran well in his return at Aqueduct in the Jimmy Winkfield and again at Laurel against Alwaysmining. He's rebounded well from the Wood Memorial and we're excited to see him run on Saturday."
Sacco considers the Wood Memorial effort an anomaly and he expects a better showing on Saturday in his first start at Belmont.
"The way the race unfolded we, and everyone else, were compromised at the beginning. It wasn't a true indication of his ability. He is improving, and if he improves again and can handle the Belmont distance, we think he'll be competitive," said Sacco. "He has tactical speed, so we believe he'll be forwardly placed. He doesn't necessarily have to be on the lead."
"It's a privilege to run in the Belmont with Joevia. It's my first Classic, and the owners are very excited about being part of the Belmont day. We look forward to the experience and hopefully running well in the Belmont," said Sacco.
MASTER FENCER - Master Fencer breezed five furlongs in 1:01.21 under Julien Leparoux today. The Japanese-bred son of Just a Way warmed up on the training track ahead of the timed breeze on the main track.
"First, we went to the training track to warm up and then we went and stood in the gate for a little bit. He was good at the gate and then we went to breeze," said Leparoux. "He felt good. He's got stronger from when I was on him in Kentucky. It was a good breeze, and I'm excited about the race on Saturday.
"He's very easy to be around. He's a kind horse and very calm and professional. It makes my job easy," said Leparoux.
A start in the Belmont Stakes will make Master Fencer eligible for NYRA's $1 million bonus offered to any Japan-based winner of New York's most prestigious race. Introduced for the 2017 Triple Crown season, the entire $1 million bonus would be awarded to the winning Japanese horse's connections in addition to the $800,000 winner's share of the purse for the last and longest leg of the Triple Crown.
If successful, it would also be the first Belmont Stakes score for Leparoux, who has developed a strong bond with the chestnut.
Leparoux said the late-closing Master Fencer will need some pace to chase on Saturday.
"We will need some racing luck. A lot depends on the pace in front and how the track plays, but we'll give it a good race," said Leparoux.
SIR WINSTON / WAR OF WILL - The main thing Mark Casse wanted to achieve with War of Will in the three weeks since the Preakness Stakes was refilling his charge's proverbial gas tank following the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
Judging by how tough the colt has made life for his handlers of late and how quickly his blood got pumping during his time on the track Wednesday morning, fatigue seems to be the least of Casse's concerns.
In his second morning on the track since arriving at Belmont Park early Monday, War of Will got the stamp of approval from exercise rider Kim Carroll during his routine gallop, displaying some eager tendencies early on before settling into a rhythm down the backside.
"Kim said he was sharp today. She said he broke off and he could see a couple horses in front of him and she was like 'No, we're not going after them,'" Casse said. "She let him ease up to them, and then he was happy. Once he got by them, he relaxed. So that's good. The good news is he has lots of energy. The other good news is she said he shut off when she asked him to. I think those are two important things.
"He's a handful in the morning, you have to be careful. He's not as sweet as he used to be," Casse grinned. "He's no longer the young, innocent boy. He's acting more like a college kid. We are making our third start in five weeks, but all that being said, I think he's as good as he can get. We're ready."
Tracking just behind War of Will on the Belmont oval Wednesday morning is stablemate and fellow Belmont Stakes contender Sir Winston. The runner-up in the May 11 Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes may be at the mercy of the pace Saturday, but he does have the advantage of having raced and trained regularly over the track known as Big Sandy.
"Sir Winston is a sleeper. It would not shock me at all if he's right there at the finish, especially if they give him a little pace," Casse said. "One, he loves Belmont. Two, he is going to thrive at a mile and a half. There are a lot of people overlooking him, but better to do the interviews after than before."
TACITUS - Currently standing for $225,000 at Gainesway in Lexington, Kentucky, Tapit has produced three of the last five Belmont Stakes winners in Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016) and Tapwrit (2017). On Saturday, three sons of Tapit will contest the final leg of the Triple Crown - Tacitus, Intrepid Heart and Bourbon War.
Mark Hernon is the Director of Sales at Gainesway, so naturally he's excited about the prospects in Belmont 151.
Tacitus, the first progeny out of 2014 Champion Older Filly Close Hatches, is the 9-5 morning line favorite for the Belmont Stakes. The two-time Grade II-winning Juddmonte homebred, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, is conditioned by Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
"Tacitus stands out and he had an unfortunate trip in the Derby," Hernon said. "He closed well and he looks good from the videos I saw of him training. He's out of a champion mare (Close Hatches). He'll love the distance. He's had a break and three works over the Belmont track.
"I'm pretty excited about Tacitus," Hernon continued. "He overcame trouble in the Wood Memorial. He was very strong finishing up that day and made up a lot of ground in the latter part of that race. He's a big, strapping horse and he's going to be running at a distance that he'll relish. I expect him to make a big account for himself."
Tapit currently leads all sires in North America in black type winners with a total of 18. He has sired eight graded stakes winners in 2019, trailing only Curlin, who has sired nine.
"He put himself in this spot," Hernon said. "He's having a tremendous year so far and we're only at the beginning."
TAX - No notes.
1 Joevia 30-1
2 Everfast 12-1
3 Master Fencer 8-1
4 Tax 15-1
5 Bourbon War 12-1
6 Spinoff 15-1
7 Sir Winston 12-1
8 Intrepid Heart 10-1
9 War of Will 2-1
10 Tacitus 9-5