• Hessonite, Lubash in good order following G3 Victories on Saturday at Belmont
ELMONT, N.Y. – Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and jockey Joel Rosario returned to Belmont Park Sunday, prepared to gear up for the next leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness, on Saturday, May 18. The series concludes June 8 with the 145th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes.
“I don’t know that I’ve been able to sit down and think about it yet, but I will, now that I’m home,” said McGaughey of his first Derby victory. “The last 10-12 days [leading up to the race] had been absolutely perfect. Everything went right for us. I had a quiet confidence about me – I didn’t get nervous like I thought I would.
“To see the race unfold the way I thought it would unfold – they kept saying there wasn’t going to be a lot of pace, but I thought there would be a lot of pace, and there was a thought at one time, ‘Are we too far back?’ – but when he punched the button, I knew we were going to have something to say about it. To see that horse run the way he did was an absolute thrill for me.”
McGaughey said Orb would likely ship to Baltimore on May 13 or 14, and added he was looking forward to the second leg of the Triple Crown.
“He’s not overcooked, and I think we have time for him to get over this race and get to the next one,” said the trainer. “I think probably the important ones that are in there that have gone through the same thing, except for Departing, who’s had a couple extra weeks.”
Rosario, who moved his tack from the West coast to New York last summer, went into Sunday’s card at Belmont leading the nation in wins (130) and earnings (nearly $7.5 million) – which does not include his victory aboard Animal Kingdom in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30.
“To win the Dubai World Cup, a $10 million race, and then to win the Derby – it’s more than a dream,” said Rosario. “It’s awesome.”
* * *
Trainer David Donk said he watched yesterday’s Kentucky Derby but didn’t “absorb” much of what had happened because he was still exited from having witnessed Hessonite’s dramatic three-quarter-length victory in the Grade 3 Beaugay approximately an hour earlier.
Hessonite, who had already won six stakes against New York-breds, was trapped behind horses until she angled out sharply in midstretch, giving her enough room to surge to the lead under Junior Alvarado’s hand ride. The Beaugay, a 1 1/16-mile grass race for fillies and mares, was her first graded stakes victory and her 5-year-old debut.
“[Trainer] Walter Kelly would say, ‘A loaded gun will go off in anybody’s hands,’” said Donk. “When you watch a horse like that, wow, it’s hard to believe she’s in your barn. She looked great in the paddock, and she’s as healthy as she has ever looked.”
The Beaugay was the first time Alvarado had ridden Hessonite, who carries the colors of William J. Punk, Jr. and Philip diLeo.
“I was confident running her, but you got to get the trip,” said Donk. “It was really impressive. We were looking for a rider to ride her with Ramon [Dominguez] being out. I think it worked out well; [Alvarado] had a chance to get to know her, and I think he was impressed.”
Hessonite likely will make her next start in Belmont’s Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay at 1 3/8 miles on May 25.
“Now that she has won a graded race, I don’t want to say the rest of it is icing in the cake, but I don’t have to be afraid of where to run her,” said Donk.
It was another New York-bred, Aliyu Ben J Stables’ homebred Lubash, who captured Saturday’s Grade 3 Fort Marcy at Belmont. The 6-year-old son of Freud was reported to be doing well the morning after his first graded stakes victory.
“Lubash came back in very good order from his race,” said trainer Christophe Clement. “He looks good this morning, lameness exam was perfect, no problems. Most probably we’ll go to the Kingston next month. I’m very happy for [owner Leonard Pivnick], he’s an owner-breeder, and it’s very nice when you succeed for an owner-breeder.”
The $125,000 Kingston is scheduled to be run as part of Belmont Park’s spring New York Showcase Day on June 1.