Sunday, May 19, 2013

Belmont Park Notes

• Orb returns to Belmont Park following Preakness loss; Preakness winner Oxbow ships to Churchill, is expected for G1 Belmont Stakes
• After skipping Preakness, Pletcher has deep lineup for Belmont Stakes, Memorial Day stakes
• Clement to run Mystical Star in G2 Sheepshead Bay, either Bella Castani or Discreet Marq in G2 Sands Point
• California invaders Fed Biz, Jimmy Creed, and Sahara Sky slated to face Pletcher’s duo and others in G1 Met Mile; Fields coming together for additional Memorial Day weekend stakes
• Jockey Luzzi to miss 12-18 weeks with shoulder injury

ELMONT, NY – Trainer Shug McGaughey was back at his Belmont Park barn Sunday afternoon, the day after Orb’s Triple Crown bid ended with a fourth-place finish in the Preakness. The son of Malibu Moon arrived at Belmont at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday and McGaughey reported that his charge had shipped back home well and will be monitored in the coming days before a decision on the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 8 is reached.

“He was already in his stall when I got back here and seemed to be fine,” said McGaughey. “We’ll walk him a good while this afternoon and just kind of see what we have. The Belmont Stakes is on our radar screen.

“I talked to Mr. Janney this morning. He and Mr. Phipps had talked on their way to the airport. We just all came to the conclusion that we should just watch Orb and see. I think everything is in good shape. We’d like to run. But yesterday took a little bit out of him and he’s already run five times this year and it’s only the middle of May. I’d sure like to have him fresh for Saratoga and a Jim Dandy/Travers kind of a go.

“He’s just going to have to tell us what we want to see. If he’s jumping out of his skin, we’re going to bring him over here [to run in the Belmont Stakes]. I might know in about a week. I just have to wait and see. Everything’s gone great all year until yesterday. But I don’t anticipate any problems. I don’t think he’s knocked out by any means.”

Oxbow, the Preakness Stakes winner, departed Pimlico before dawn on Sunday and vanned to trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ barn at Churchill Downs, according to Pimlico officials. The colt is expected to aim for the Belmont Stakes.

According to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, Oxbow currently is slated to face Freedom Child, Golden Soul, Overanalyze, Palace Malice, and Revolutionary. Bob Baffert will run either Code West or Power Broker. Itsmyluckyday is possible.

* * *

After bypassing the Preakness, trainer Todd Pletcher has a deep group of contenders for the Belmont Stakes.

“We have a few candidates, but we haven’t firmed up the lineup just yet,” said Pletcher. “Overanalyze breezed this morning [four furlongs in 47.50 seconds over the training track] and breezed well. We are planning to run him. We breezed Palace Malice [four furlongs in 47.49, training track] and talked to [Cot] Campbell [of Dogwood Stable]. We plan to run him. Revolutionary will have two breezes starting next Sunday. We plan to run him. Mike Repole is going to be the key to how many other horses we run. He has several possibilities [in addition to Overanalyze]. Unlimited Budget breezed this morning [four furlongs in 49.07, training track], and she is possible. Micromanage is here and will breeze next Sunday, and we’ll make a decision after that.”

WinStar Farm’s Revolutionary, winner of the Grade 3 Withers in February at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby in March at Fair Grounds, was Pletcher’s highest finisher in the 2013 Kentucky Derby, reporting home third, beaten 3 ½ lengths by Orb. Overanalyze, victorious in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in April at Oaklawn, was 11th in the Derby, with Grade 1 Blue Grass runner-up Palace Malice tiring to 12th after setting a fast pace.

Unlimited Budget, third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 3, would be attempting to emulate Rags to Riches, who in 2007 became the first filly since 1905 to win the Belmont. Rags to Riches is Pletcher’s only Belmont Stakes winner to date. Micromanage is exiting a neck victory in an optional claimer on May 11 at Monmouth Park.

Pletcher is a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who on Saturday picked up his sixth Preakness victory when he sent out Oxbow to a front-running win under Gary Stevens.

“I was very happy for Wayne and Gary; it was a tremendous accomplishment for both of them,” said Pletcher. “I thought Gary rode a very, very smart race and took advantage of the pace scenario, and the horse delivered a big performance.”

Before the Belmont Stakes, Pletcher will have the chance to take down a few graded stakes on Memorial Day, May 27, at Belmont Park. The day’s featured race is the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap, and Pletcher is expected to run Cross Traffic and Discreet Dancer in the one-mile event for 3-year-olds and up.

Cross Traffic will enter the Met Mile off a hard-fought second to Flat Out in the Grade 3 Westchester on April 27 at Belmont, while Discreet Dancer is exiting a third in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 6 at Aqueduct.

“It’s pretty rare that you see a horse who has come that far in such a short time,” said Pletcher of GoldMark Farm’s Cross Traffic. “He was an unraced 4-year-old at the start of the year. He ran a huge race in the Westchester. He just lost to a tough, seasoned veteran who seems to love Belmont. We were very pleased with his race, and he’s doing just as well or even better than he came into [the Westchester].”

“The Carter came up a very fast race,” said Pletcher of Discreet Dancer, an E. Paul Robsham Stables homebred. “He won the mile race at Gulfstream, and we think the mile suits him well. He’s coming up to it in good order, so we’re excited about his chances as well.”

Pletcher added that he plans to run Kauai Katie in the Grade 1 Acorn on the Met Mile undercard. In the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares, Pletcher will run Disposablepleasure, with Authenticity listed as possible.

“I’m keeping an eye on the Phipps with Authenticity, if it comes up a short field,” said Pletcher. “I’m just seeing how quickly she bounces back [off her win in the Grade 2 La Troienne on May 3 at Churchill Downs], but she’s doing well. I’d say she’s about 50-50 at this moment.”

Pletcher said all of his contenders for Memorial Day stakes will breeze on Tuesday, pending weather.

* * *

Belmont will present a pair of graded stakes on the turf next week, and, as usual, trainer Christophe Clement will be represented in both races.

On Saturday, Belmont will conduct the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay, a 1 3/8-mile race for fillies and mares. Clement said he will run Cheyenne Stables’ Mystical Star, fourth in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland. In last year’s Sheepshead Bay, Mystical Star was disqualified from third and placed last after beating the gate and rearing up.

“She got beat the other day at Keeneland [in the Doubledogdare]; I think she’s a better filly for the race,” said Clement. “Unfortunately, the race will be very competitive, but that’s the way it is. She’s doing well.”

Clement will run either Lael Stable’s Bella Castani or Patricia Generazio’s Discreet Marq in the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Sands Point for 3-year-old fillies on Memorial Day.

“I will probably run one of the two,” said Clement. “I have to see. They’re both doing well. I will likely run one [in the Miss Liberty on May 26 at Monmouth Park] and run one here.”

Bella Castani won the Tweedside overnight stakes by 1 ½ lengths on April 27 at Belmont, while Discreet Marq is coming out of a second-place finish in the Sweetest Chant in January at Gulfstream Park.

“She was very rank,” said Clement of Bella Castani’s performance in the Tweedside. “Mentally, she needs to settle, but she was impressive. When we asked her to run, she quickened.”

“Discreet Marq hasn’t run since January,” he added. “It would be a little bit ambitious first time back.”

* * *

A talented contingent from California is expected to take on Cross Traffic and Discreet Dancer in the Metropolitan Handicap on May 27, with graded stakes winners Fed Biz, Jimmy Creed, and Sahara Sky aiming for the race, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes. Also probable are Fort Loudon, Mark Valeski, Mucho Macho Man, and Swagger Jack. Handsome Mike is possible.

In addition to Disposablepleasure, the Ogden Phipps on the Met Mile undercard is expected to attract Centring, Joyful Victory, and Tiz Miz Sue. Authenticity is possible.

In the Grade 1 Acorn, Kauai Katie will be challenged by Cue the Moon, Let Me Entertain U, Manuka Honey, Midnight Lucky, and Momentary Magic.

Carolina Thomas, Unbelievable Dream, Watsdachances, and Wave Theory will take on either Bella Castani or Discreet Marq in the Grade 2 Sands Point.

On May 25, the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay likely will feature Anjaz, Hessonite, Julie’s Love, Minakshi, Mystical Star, Starformer, Strathnaver, and Tannery.

* * *

Veteran jockey Mike Luzzi will undergo shoulder surgery for an injury he suffered on May 10 and will be out for 12-18 weeks, the rider said on Saturday.

Luzzi, 43, hit his shoulder on the starting gate at the start of the No Reason overnight stakes. Since then, he rode in five races on May 11 and in a single race yesterday. The rider says he needs the surgery to regain his full range of motion on that shoulder.

So far in 2013, Luzzi has won 28 races from 235 mounts. He had won five races from 26 mounts during the current Belmont spring/summer meet.

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