ELMONT, NY, May 31, 2011 – So you thought that maybe you were the only one traveling over the holiday weekend?
Well, Preakness winner Shackleford arrived at Belmont Park Monday morning with visions of Belmont 143 dancing in his handsome head.
The colt probably won’t go to the track until tomorrow morning but there’s no rush to do so since he’s not 100 percent to compete; 99 44/100s maybe, but not totally at this point.
Can’t blame the connections for being careful, and maybe it’s all about publicity at this point. A final decision is expected to be made later this week.
Dale Romans reported on “Down The Stretch” Saturday on the Capital OTB television network that he was one of four revelers left standing at the Cross Keys hotel after the Preakness, a group that included NYRA Vice President and Director of Racing P J Campo.
Certainly hope Campo picked up the tab. No one wants hurt feelings standing in the way of a 20th meeting between a Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner in Elmont. The last horse to win the final two jewels in the Crown, by the way, was Afleet Alex six years ago.
Of course, Romans just wants to make sure that all is well before committing to the race officially. And you can’t argue with a man who’s been pushing the right buttons all spring.
Meanwhile, his main rival, Derby winner Animal Kingdom, is “doing super,” Graham Motion was saying at his Fair Hill base earlier this weekend. Animal Kingdon was scheduled to resume galloping this morning.
The Derby hero will have one timed workout before the race, either at Fair Hill before shipping, or over Big Sandy, depending on what the weather handicappers say. Motion has no interest in working the horse on a wet racetrack.
Meanwhile, Nehro, the likely third choice should the Derby and Preakness winner meet, breezed six furlongs at Churchill Downs Monday in 1:12 1/5, assistant trainer Scott Blasi telling Daily Racing Form that the colt went very well. Nehro likely will have a work over the Belmont surface early next week.
Brilliant Speed, beaten less than six lengths when seventh in a very respectable Derby effort, could work Tuesday morning. Heretofore considered a Polytrack specialist off his Blue Grass score, he handled Churchill just fine, but Belmont is a different animal and he handled it well if a sharp recent workout is the measure.
Mucho Macho Man, who just can’t seem to keep his shoes on, was fitted with a special pair of glue-ons, trainer Kathy Ritvo believing the problem has been solved with the addition of flexible footwear that’s supposed to feel very natural, like running without shoes at all.
Macho Man’s sixth-place Preakness finish was his first off-the-board effort in 10 career starts, making him better than his Baltimore run suggests.
From a competitive reference, the Belmont took a hit when trainer Donnie Van Hemel decided to skip the race with Peter Pan winner Alternation, giving the horse a brief freshening before using the Jim Dandy at Saratoga as a bridge to the Travers.
This is Saratoga’s gain and Belmont’s loss. The attractive Midwest-based individual has the look of a potential second-season sensation and he could make a profound impact on the division upon his returns.
Sixth-place Derby finisher Santiva, up against it in Kentucky given his lack of seasoning, worked a sharp five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 Saturday in Louisville and might finally be ready to show his best for the first time as a 3-year-old a week from Saturday.
A son of Giant’s Causeway, it won’t be the distance that beats him on Long Island. He’ll have one more work at Churchill Downs before shipping north.
Master of Hounds, a surprisingly strong fifth in the Derby despite a very light prep campaign, will ship from Europe a week from today and clear quarantine the day after entries are drawn a week from tomorrow.
1. Animal Kingdom - A very classy and talented animal, he remains the one they all must beat on June 11.
2. Shackleford - Here’s hoping he and Animal Kingdom have a good 10 days. This is a better colt than many suspected in Baltimore, myself included.
3. Nehro - The consensus third choice is still eligible for preliminary allowances but he’s never failed to fire as the distances have increased.
4. Dialed In - Like Alternationvwill skip this dance, freshen, and point for the Travers, either via the Haskell or Jim Dandy. The Haskell has prestige and a million-dollar purse; the Jim Dandy is run over the Travers track; tough call.
5. Mucho Macho Man - If the connections decide not to replace Rajiv Maragh, they can take solace in the fact that Maragh won the prestigious Met Mile. Confidence make riders smarter.
6. Toby’s Corner - As reported here last week, he’s back galloping and is another member of his class looking to make noise in late summer and fall. Don’t sell him short.
7. Astrology - Made a worthy late surge in Baltimore and is being pointed to the Haskell and Travers. He's catching up in experience and just might have a Grade 1 with his name on it this year.
8. Uncle Mo - Todd Pletcher has been quoted that the colt is making progress at WinStar, putting on weight, etc. Still no timetable yet, if indeed there is a timetable.
9. Alternation - As much as I’m disappointed his connections have decided to skip the Belmont, they probably are doing the right thing, especially if they're thinking very big fish this fall.
10. Master of Hounds - The Belmont is supposed to be the race they really, really were pointing for. Well, they will get their wish. A galloping finisher with tactical speed is made for testing would-be champions.