The 43-year-old native of Trinidad & Tobago has leading contenders in each of the Grade 2, $400,000 sprint stakes that help comprise the Belmont undercard: Trinniberg in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens presented by VisitNassauCounty.com, and Giant Ryan in the six-furlong True North Handicap.
“They are both doing very well. Now it is all up to them,” Parbhoo said. “It is just unbelievable. To have two horses on the same card for the Belmont Stakes, wow, I can’t believe it. It would be extremely nice to win, with 100,000 people watching. It is going to be very exciting.”
The Woody Stephens, for 3-year-olds, marks a return to sprinting for Trinniberg, the speedy Teuflesberg colt who chased a fast pace before fading to 17th of 20 in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, his first start beyond seven furlongs.
Trinniberg has two wins and a second in three tries at the Woody Stephens distance, his runner-up finish coming in the Grade 2 Nashua at Belmont Park on October 2.
“I’m very happy to see him go back to the distance,” Parbhoo said. “The plan going into the Derby was, when we made it to the quarter pole, if there was no horse left to just ease him up. If he couldn’t finish 1-2-3-4, don’t push it. We went into the race hoping he could get the distance, and he could not.
“He came out of the Kentucky Derby even better than he went in, and he’s training really nice. He did two breezes at Calder, and both of them were very impressive. I had the jockey that breezed him come back and tell me that he’s ready for the race.”
Trinniberg preceded the Kentucky Derby with successive front-running Grade 3 wins in the April 7 Bay Shore at Aqueduct Racetrack and the March 10 Swale at Gulfstream Park. In addition to the Nashua, he was also second to Currency Swap in the Grade 1 Three Chimneys Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course last summer.
“He will do the same thing he does. He will control the speed, and we’ll see how he’s going to handle it,” Parbhoo said. “I think he can handle it good. It makes us very excited.”
Currency Swap makes his return to graded company in the Woody Stephens, coming off a three-quarter length victory in the $83,000 You and I overnight stakes on May 12 at Belmont. It was the second win in as many tries at seven furlongs for the High Cotton colt, who returned from a six-month layoff to run a decisive second behind Gemologist in a one-mile allowance at Gulfstream Park in March in his 2012 debut.
“It was great for him, because he really needed something to pick his head up,” trainer Terri Pompay said. “He probably wasn’t quite ready when I ran him in Florida. We were trying to push a little bit because we had a little bit of that Derby fever and he didn’t have the earnings to get in. I probably could have had him a little tighter for that.”
The only time Currency Swap was worse than second came in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby, where he was 11th of 14 as the favorite after being caught between horses and roughed up in the first turn of the 1 1/8-mile race.
“Going into the race, we were wondering if he could get the distance, and we still don’t know yet. He had such a horrible trip, it’s hard to say,” Pompay said. “We decided to regroup and drop him back to sprints, and it worked. It was a good confidence builder for him. He came out of the race feeling good and happy, and he’s moved forward since then.”
Trained by Chad Brown for owner New Farm, Fred Capossela Stakes winner Hardened Wildcat was narrowly favored over Currency Swap in the You and I and finished third, beaten 2 ½ lengths. The late-running Hard Spun colt was also second in the Grade 2 Bay Shore on April 7.
“This horse has been a little unlucky, pace-wise,” Brown said. “He’s a come-from-behind sprinter. When he has some pace to run at, he’s got a strong move. I think in the Bay Shore and in the overnight stakes he ran in last time, it was just ridiculously slow fractions for a sprint race. If he gets some pace to run at, he should be running late.”
The other graded stakes winner in the field is Hierro, who captured the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on April 28 and was briefly under consideration for the Preakness for Stonestreet Stable and trainer Steve Asmussen.
Also entered are Bourbon Courage, fourth in the Grade 3 Derby Trial; You and I runner-up Brian; Il Villano, winner of the Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico in his last start; Isn’t He Clever, second in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby; stakes winner Laurie’s Rocket; and Power World, winner of a Belmont allowance on May 6.
Voted the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Horse of the Year for a 2011 campaign in which he won six consecutive races among nine starts, including a pair of graded stakes, Giant Ryan returns to his native state in the True North.
The 6-year-old Freud horse won the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder in July and the Grade 1 Vosburgh in October at Belmont Park to cap his win streak before finishing eighth in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
In his lone start this year, Giant Ryan ran fifth of 12 in the Group 1, $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan Racecourse in March. He has had three published works at Calder to tune up for his return.
“The plan was to give him a month or two off after coming back from Dubai, but after two weeks in the shedrow he just didn’t want to stay in there anymore,” Parbhoo said. “We had to take him out, and even though we just started galloping him and taking our time, he wanted to do more and more, so we gave him a couple breezes. He’s doing really nice.
“We pulled all the blood work and did all that when he came back, and everything stayed the same. Coming back from Dubai, nobody knows how he is going to run, but to see how he looks and how he acts, it’s amazing. He’s like one of those old cars that runs forever and doesn’t give you any trouble. That’s how Ryan is. He’s a good, old car.”
Parbhoo said he considered bringing Giant Ryan back in Saturday’s Ponche Handicap at Calder, a race he won last year, but opted for the True North, where he’ll break from post 6 in the eight-horse field.
“I think this race comes up a little better for him,” he said. “I said, ‘Let me bring him here and see how he’s going to do.’”
Among the horses Giant Ryan will contend with are multiple graded stakes winner Smiling Tiger, who captured the Grade 1 Triple Bend last July; hard-hitting graded stakes winner Caixa Electronica, making his 54th career start; Hamazing Destiny, who ended a nine-race losing streak in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap on the Preakness undercard May 19; Justin Phillip, gate-to-wire winner of the Woody Stephens at Belmont last year; Grade 3 winner Pacific Ocean, making his 2012 debut; and multiple stakes winner Royal Currier.
Also in the mix is Crossbow, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Darley Stable. The 4-year-old Bernardini colt enters the True North having won two straight, but is unraced since a handy 4 ½-length optional claiming victory on February 23 over Aqueduct’s inner track.
First or second in six of eight career starts, Crossbow has been preparing for his return on the all-weather track at Darley’s Greentree Stable facility in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., adjacent to Saratoga Race Course.
“He’s training really well,” McLaughlin said. “This is a big step up from an allowance race, but he’s doing real well and it’s time to step him up. He likes the distance, we have [jockey] Ramon [Dominguez] and the weights are good. It’s just a tough race, so we’ll see.