Thursday, May 21, 2015
Belmont Park Notes 5/21
• Frosted confirmed for G1 Belmont Stakes on June 6
• Wicked Strong, Effinex eye Belmont Stakes Day assignments
• Cruz scores first win as a journeyman
ELMONT, N.Y. - Godolphin Racing's Frosted is now slated to challenge Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 6, the colt's trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, announced Thursday morning.
Breaking from post 12, Frosted lagged well behind a moderate early pace in the Kentucky Derby, went wide on both turns and closed to be fourth, 3 ¼ lengths behind winner American Pharoah and a neck behind third-place finisher Dortmund.
"We ran good breaking from a wide post in an 18-horse field and going six wide on the far turn, and we wish there were more pace," said McLaughlin. "He ran a great race, but we were a little disappointed; we wanted to win."
McLaughlin hopes Frosted will follow in the footsteps of one of his former trainees, Jazil, who won the 2006 Belmont after finishing fourth in the Derby.
"We're very happy to be running," said the trainer. "He's doing well and will work tomorrow [Friday] morning."
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Speaking from his shed row, trainer Jimmy Jerkens commented on upcoming Belmont Stakes Racing Festival plans for stablemates
Wicked Strong and Effinex. The pair last raced in the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes on April 25 at Aqueduct Racetrack, where Effinex won by three-quarters of a length and Wicked Strong finished third.
After working five furlongs in 1:00.50 Thursday morning on the Belmont main track, Centennial Farms' Wicked Strong will be pointed toward the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at one mile on Belmont Stakes Day. He last raced at a mile making his 2015 debut in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 7, when he closed fast to finish fourth. The performance encouraged Jerkens to give Wicked Strong another try at the distance, which will also serve as a springboard to a summer campaign at Saratoga Race Course.
"He worked good today," said Jerkens. "He's going to work again next week. I felt he ran good enough in Florida, in that mile race [Gulfstream Park Handicap] to think he belongs. [The Metropolitan] is a mile around a big, sloping turn and he's always run good [at Belmont]. It's always nice to run in your backyard if you can. There really isn't anything that's super ideal at the moment, but it sets him up for the summer if he runs up there [Saratoga] for the Whitney and Woodward."
New York-bred Effinex will enter the Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational at a 1 ½ miles on June 6. Receiving a career high 107 Beyer Speed Figure in the Excelsior, the 4-year-old son of Mineshaft has continued to improve and show promise as a potential stallion for his owners, Tri-Bone Stable.
"He's been improving slowly and surely, which is a great sign," said Jerkens. "Even looking at him, the difference between now and when he was a 3-year-old, he almost looks like he's twice the size, and that's what you want. The more he does in open and graded company is best for him in the future to stand as a stallion. He won going 1 ¼ miles [Excelsior]; I can't say that he was a fresh horse at the end, but he fights until the end. When you have a horse with that kind of determination you know anything can happen."
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Jockey Angel Cruz has wasted no time adjusting to his new designation as a full-fledged journeyman, scoring his first win in his first race back since losing his "bug" weight allowance last weekend at Belmont.
Cruz, a 20-year-old native of Puerto Rico, piloted his last winner as an apprentice rider aboard 28-1 Nile Princess for trainer John Toscano, Jr. in the Sunday nightcap. His absence from the winners' circle was short-lived, however, as Cruz made a quick return with Rock N Cozy for David Jacobson, his first mount on the Wednesday afternoon card.
"I'm thankful, everything's going well for me," said Cruz. "I won my first race as a journeyman yesterday and it doesn't feel different. Everything's going to be the same. It might mean less horses but I'm going to keep working harder and harder to become a better journeyman than I was as a bug.
"I got it out of the way and now there's no pressure," he added. "I know I can win without the bug and people know I can win without the bug."
An Eclipse Award finalist for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 2014, Cruz began his career last spring in the Mid-Atlantic, riding at Laurel Park during the day and picking up mounts on the night cards at Charles Town.
Cruz moved his tack to New York at the request of agent Bill Castle, who also currently represents Cornelio Velasquez.
"I asked Angel [to come to New York] and I had gotten some really positive feedback on him," said Castle. "And everything I was told, you can magnify for the better. He's polite and he works extremely hard. He's working horses on Mondays and Tuesdays when it's dark. He's a really good kid and he's got a big future."
Cruz was ranked 90th in overall wins last year and, going into Thursday's card, has 200 career wins and nearly $5.8 million in earnings from 1,199 starts.
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