Courtesy NYRA Press Office
Saturday morning was a busy one for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who breezed a handful of his heavy hitters at Belmont Park, including Mo Donegal and Nest for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.
Mo Donegal, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, and Nest, piloted by Jose Ortiz, went to the Belmont training track around 9:30 a.m. and went a half-mile over a fast track in 49.90 seconds. Pletcher caught the pair in splits of 24.80 for the quarter-mile before galloping out six furlongs in 1:14 and seven furlongs in 1:27.20.
“I thought it was good. I liked the way they finished and galloped out,” Pletcher said. “Those horses seem to be in good form. This was more of a maintenance work. They had a strong work last week with a big, long gallop out. This week we wanted just a maintenance type of work, which they were able to execute properly.”
Donegal Racing and Repole Stable’s Mo Donegal, a son of Uncle Mo, arrives at the Belmont off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby where he was ten wide at the top of the stretch and made a valiant run to finish only 3 3/4 lengths behind the victorious Rich Strike.
Nest, owned by Repole, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House, is the lone filly in this year’s Belmont coming off a runner-up to Secret Oath in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. A triumph from the daughter of Curlin would make Pletcher, who saddled Rags to Riches to beat the boys in the 2007 Belmont, the only trainer to win dual Triple Crown races with a filly.
Pletcher also worked Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat in preparation for the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps on June 11 as part of Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. The 4-year-old daughter of Curlin, who was crowned 2021 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly, went a half-mile in 48.75 seconds over the training track in company with sophomore maiden Inventing.
“She was doing it absolutely in a canter. She looked awesome,” Pletcher said.
WinStar Farm and CHC Inc.’s Life Is Good logged another impressive work over the Belmont training track, covering a half-mile in 49.25 seconds.
The Into Mischief bay, winner of last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and this year’s Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, is eyeing a comeback in the Grade 2, $250,000 John A. Nerud on July 2. He last raced when fourth in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March.
“He looked great like he always does,” Pletcher said of the work.
Pletcher’s Saturday morning work tab also included Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Wit, who went a half-mile in 49.70 in preparation for the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun.
The son of second crop sire Practical Joke won the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct in his lone start this year.
Chilean-bred stakes-winner First Constitution, winner of the 1 3/8-mile Flat Out, went a half-mile in 50.22 seconds for the Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Handicap on June 11. Also targeting the Brooklyn is Repole Stable’s three-time graded stakes winner Fearless, who went a half-mile in 48.88 seconds over the training track.
KHK Racing’s Shahama, sixth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, went a half-mile in 50.28 seconds in company with Grade 1-placed A Mo Reay. A half-sister to dual champion Lookin At Lucky, Shahama is targeting the Grade 2, $250,000 Mother Goose, on June 25 at Belmont Park.
We the People sails through half-mile drill for G1 Belmont Stakes
WinStar Farm, CMNWLTH and Siena Farm’s We the People breezed a half-mile in 47.59 seconds Saturday over the Belmont main track with trainer Rodolphe Brisset in the irons in preparation for the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.
The bay son of Constitution made his way towards the backstretch of a fast Big Sandy in the company of a pony before breaking off on his own to start the four-furlong drill. NYRA clockers caught We the People marking off a quarter-mile in 24.20 as he continued to move strongly through the turn and into the stretch about three paths from the rail.
Brisset eased up on We the People a few strides before the wire, galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.40.
“It was a little fast,” said Brisset as We the People cooled out around the barn. “The track with the moisture in it will carry you. He couldn’t have done it any easier. He was just galloping. He repeated what we’ve been seeing the whole time here. It looked like he really enjoyed it to me. We’ve got to have a good week now.”
The work was the second over Big Sandy for We the People, who had his first drill going the same distance in 48.39 on May 27. The $230,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale purchase was an impressive winner of the Grade 3 Peter Pan on May 14 at Belmont, the local prep for the “Test of the Champion.”
We the People schooled in the paddock on Friday and Brisset said he will repeat the exercise again next week ahead of the Belmont.
“We’ll monitor the weather and his weight and then we’ll decide – I’m sure I’ll school him at least one more time next week either in the morning or afternoon during the races,” said Brisset.
We the People enters the Belmont with a 3-for-4 record, his only loss a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby where he rated in fifth and never fired after going five-wide in the turn. He has won his three starts by a combined 21 lengths, highlighted by his 10 1/4-length romp in the Peter Pan.
Skippylongstocking breezes for G1 Belmont Stakes
Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking, who finished fifth in the Grade 1 Preakness on May 21 at Pimlico, breezed five-eighths in 1:02.41 Saturday over Big Sandy in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.
NYRA clockers caught the graded-stakes placed colt working solo under Manny Franco through splits of 25.60, 37.80 and out in 1:15.80 over the fast main track.
Trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr, who is looking for his first score in a Triple Crown race, said he was pleased with the effort.
"We're coming back in three weeks, so we weren't looking for much. We wanted a steady, long and easy breeze and that's what we got," Joseph, Jr. said.
Skippylongstocking, a $37,000 purchase at the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, is by the stamina-influencing sire Exaggerator, who finished second in the 2016 Kentucky Derby ahead of a win in that year’s Preakness Stakes.
The talented bay has appreciated added ground with his Beyer Speed Figures increasing in each of his last three starts, including an 88 for a nine-furlong optional-claiming win in March at Gulfstream; a 91 for a third-place finish in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino in April at Aqueduct; and a 94 last out for a fifth-place finish from the outermost post 9 in the 1 3/16-mile Grade 1 Preakness at Pimlico.
"He's going to need to improve again or he'll need some of the others to regress a bit for him to be competitive, but we're hoping he'll go over there and run the race of his life,” Joseph, Jr. said.
Franco, who guided New York-bred Tiz the Law to victory in the 2020 Belmont Stakes, will pilot Skippylongstocking in the afternoon for the first time next Saturday.
Joseph, Jr. said he is hopeful that Franco can work out a stalking trip.
"It seems that in the Belmont it's hard to make up too much ground. Most of the horses that run well are closer to the pace," Joseph, Jr. said. "We don't want to be too far back. So, hopefully he can lay a little bit closer without taking him too much out of his game.”
Rich Strike gallops over fast going for G1 Belmont Stakes
Saturday was business as usual for Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, who stretched out to two miles in a gallop over the fast main track at Belmont Park. The son of Keen Ice had been galloping 1 1/2 miles for the past two days and went the extra half-mile in his first time over a dry Big Sandy.
Trainer Eric Reed watched from the track apron as a calm Rich Strike awaited his turn to step onto the track. With a flock of photographers around him, the chestnut stood quietly beneath the Belmont Park sign at the exit of the tunnel with his regular pony, Stormy, and had his ears forward while he observed the scene. He became a touch excited as he approached the dirt, but never lost his composure and continued without issue under regular exercise rider Gabriel Lagunes.
“He was great,” said Reed, who has been awaiting the chance to observe Rich Strike over a dry track. “The rider said he was moving good and liked it. When he came down the stretch, I was loving the way he was moving today. He can get into his stride and not get distracted here. We went two miles today and tomorrow we’ll probably back it up a little bit.”
Reed noted that Rich Strike has matured immensely since he posted his memorable 80-1 victory in the Kentucky Derby.
“We had to stand and wait for the track to open. There were all those horses in the tunnel and he never paid his mind to anything,” Reed said. “The old Richie would have been tougher than that. The pony has given him a lot of comfort. He and Stormy are buddies.”
British Royalty seeks crowning moment in G2 Belmont Gold Cup
Friday's Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup, a two-mile turf marathon for older horses, will be graced by an appearance from British Royalty on Day Two of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
Trained and co-owned by Barb Minshall with Bruce Lunsford, the 4-year-old English Channel gelding has traveled an unorthodox ascendancy in the stayer division. He posted a debut win in October 2020 over Tapeta at Woodbine Racetrack when owned outright by Lunsford in the care of Minshall.
British Royalty would finish off-the-board in his next four starts, prompting the connections to drop him into a claiming event in July 2021 at Woodbine where he finished second while being haltered for $25,000 by conditioner John Charalambous.
He was entered back two weeks later for a $40,000 tag and immediately re-acquired, finishing a troubled fourth.
“He’d had a couple of rough trips and we thought we'd drop him in and try to give him an easy spot and you turn around and we’d lost the horse. It happens,” Minshall said. “We were just trying to get him a win and get him focused. He didn’t win that day. He had a rough trip. It wasn't like you’d won and then lost him.
“Ten days later the horse was back in and I called Bruce and asked if he wanted in,” Minshall continued. “He said, ‘let's be partners.’”
British Royalty finished eighth in a 10-furlong turf allowance in his next start as a prep for the $400,000 Breeders’ Stakes, the 12-furlong final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown contested over Woodbine's E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
British Royalty, with blinkers on for the first time, saved ground in fifth position through the opening mile of the Breeders’ under a patient Patrick Husbands before launching his bid, splitting rivals and angling three-wide for the lengthy stretch run. He took command at the stretch call and drew off to a four-length win over the yielding going in a final time of 2:34 flat.
“He got a really good trip that day. I added blinkers to him because he was a little looky and I think that helped,” Minshall said. “Patrick rode a great race on him. He got him into a nice stalking position. He likes a little bit of cover, but he doesn't want to come from 30 lengths back. He likes to sit in a close stalking position. He'll gallop all day and he just waits for the rider's cue. The ground was very soft that day and he just went over it like it was nothing. It was a great race.”
British Royalty wintered at Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Florida, and made his seasonal debut last out with a close second under returning rider Joel Rosario in a 12-furlong allowance event over good Keeneland turf.
“He's a tall, leggy horse and he's matured a lot in the last year,” Minshall said. “We had him in Florida all winter. He's become a very rideable horse and is a true stayer. He handles any kind of ground.”
Minshall said British Royalty should relish the added ground.
“This horse will go as far as you want him to go. He's such a galloper, but he can gallop at a good pace. I think the distance is right up his alley,” Minshall said.
British Royalty will begin his procession to New York on Tuesday evening but will not be traveling via Diamond Jubilee State Coach.
“He's a little quirky, so I have to ship him with a friend and make sure he has a window in his stall,” Minshall said. “But other than that, he's a very kind horse. He’s very rideable and very straightforward.”