Monday, May 04, 2009
BELMONT PARK NOTES, Sunday, March 3, 2009
In the aftermath of Rachel Alexandra’s powerhouse victory in Friday’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, trainer Hal Wiggins was still on cloud nine even as he looked ahead to the three-year-old filly’s next start, the Grade 1, $300,000 Acorn at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day, Saturday, June 6.
“We’ve got the Acorn penciled in pretty good,” said Wiggins from Churchill Downs. “It really is, historically, a very prestigious race. The one-turn mile should fit her just great. Plus it gives us five weeks, which is what I like.”
“She’s bright-eyed and happy,” said Wiggins. “She’ll walk for a couple of days and then we’ll see if we need to get her there a bit ahead of time, or that week. I’ll talk to some of the other trainers who have raced there and see what they say.”
Wiggins, only an occasional visitor to Belmont Park, said he has never raced on the main track. He saddled Chorwon to fourth- and fifth-place finishes in consecutive runnings of the Bowling Green in 1998-99, and then to a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2001.
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Along with 153,563 fans at Churchill Downs and millions of television viewers, trainer Jimmy Jerkens was as confounded as everyone else when 50-1 shot Mine That Bird walloped 18 rivals in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
“It was … weird,” said Jerkens, whose Quality Road would likely have been the favorite in the Run for the Roses had he not been sidelined by a quarter crack in his right front foot. “I can’t imagine Quality Road would back up like the rest of them did. But I’m sure Larry Jones (Friesan Fire) and Todd Pletcher (Dunkirk) couldn’t imagine their horses wouldn’t pick up their feet, either. I can’t understand so many horses backing up like that.
“That horse who won is no slouch, don’t get me wrong,” he added. “I saw him in California when I was there for the Breeders’ Cup with Zaftig. They sent him to (Hall of Fame trainer Richard) Mandella and I remember him being really small.”
Mine That Bird, a gelded son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, finished last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at odds of 23-1. His connections have not yet committed to the second leg of the Triple Crown, the May 16 Preakness, and may go straight to the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 6.
With Quality Road having returned to the track on Sunday, galloping an eager mile and one quarter under exercise rider Juan Moreno, Jerkens said the Belmont remained a possibility for the Elusive Quality colt, who is owned by Edward P. Evans.
“Everything will have to go perfectly,” he said.
Quality Road, who won the Grade 1, nine-furlong Florida Derby in track record time (1:47.72), developed a quarter crack on the inside of his right front hoof on April 23. Although treated and covered with a supportive acrylic patch, the crack did not respond quickly enough and Jerkens pulled him from Derby consideration on April 25.
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Mine That Bird’s Kentucky Derby upset, the second largest in the race’s history, has opened the door for new shooters to crash the party.
On Saturday, May 9, potential players for the Belmont Stakes will go to post in the 56th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan for three-year-olds at nine furlongs. The Peter Pan set the stage for Belmont Stakes wins for Coastal (1979), Danzig Connection (1986) and A.P. Indy (1992). Last year, Casino Drive won the Peter Pan, but injury prevented him from starting in the Belmont Stakes.
Expected to run in the Peter Pan this year are Al Khali, Charitable Man, Hello Broadway, Imperial Council, Scorewithcarter and Stately Character.
Charitable Man won the Grade 2 Futurity here as a 2-year-old last September. He made his 2009 debut for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland, finishing seventh to General Quarters.
Hello Broadway generated some buzz earlier this year with a runner-up finish to Capt. Candyman Can in the Grade 2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park. A disappointing seventh as the post-time favorite in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, he was sent to Keeneland, where he was a winner in allowance company on PolyTrack. Trainer Barclay Tagg worked him on Belmont Park’s fast main track this morning, where he went five furlongs in a bullet 59.82, handily.
Imperial Council, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, was second to I Want Revenge in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 7. He returned for the Grade 1, nine-furlong Wood Memorial, where he raced closer to the pace and faded in the stretch to a fifth-place finish. He worked a half-mile on Belmont Park’s fast main track this morning in a bullet 47.65, handily.
Scorewithcarter was claimed at Hollywood Park last November, and has since won three of five starts for trainer Doug O’Neill. All but his last two starts were on synthetic surfaces. On the dirt at Sunland Park, he defeated Mine That Bird by a neck on February 26 He then ran third in the Sunland Derby, where the fourth-place finisher was Mine That Bird.
Stately Character was a distant fourth to Quality Road in the Florida Derby. In a prior race, he was beaten less than a length by Al Khali, who defeated only two horses in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby. Stately Character’s five-furlong work of 1:03.16 this morning was the slowest of 13 at the distance on Belmont’s main track.
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Next Sunday, May 10, is Mother’s Day and Belmont Park is a delightful alternative to a standard restaurant date.
Enjoy a lavish buffet in the North Shore Terrace, or head to the backyard for an informal Family Fun Day, featuring Western Day, complete with ponies and a Western round-up.
To remember the day, there will be a photo magnet booth. And the backyard will be abuzz with live bands and the children’s playground.
Fans may enter, free of charge, for a drawing for a night’s stay at The Inn at Great Neck.
The live race card will feature the 31st running of the $100,000-added Kingston for New York-breds at a mile and a sixteenth on the inner turf course. Giant Moon, coming off a huge victory in the Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap at Aqueduct on Wood Memorial Day, returns to face a field that is likely to include Al Basha, Banrock, Icabad Crane and Scientist. Giant Moon breezed five furlongs in 1:03.10 on the turf on Sunday morning.
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