Belmont Park Notes - May 18, 2014
By NYRA Press Office | 05/18/2014 02:31 PM ET
Pletcher pointing trio to Belmont Stakes, Danza works
Wicked Strong turns in solid five furlong work
Samraat breezes at Aqueduct
Christophe Clement plots course for Tonalist
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Danza returned to the worktab for the first time since finishing third, beaten three lengths, in the Kentucky Derby by breezing a half-mile in 49 flat on Sunday at Belmont Park.
"Perfect, everything I wanted, nice and easy, just getting back in action," said trainer Todd Pletcher.
A 4 ¾-length winner of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, Danza is one of three horses from Pletcher's barn who are targeting the Belmont Stakes, the others being Commissioner (second in the Grade 2 Peter Pan) and Intense Holiday (12th in the Kentucky Derby).
"They'll all breeze next Sunday, weather permitting," said Pletcher.
Pletcher is seeking his second straight Belmont Stakes victory and third overall. He won the 2013 Belmont with Palace Malice and the 2007 edition with the filly Rags to Riches.
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Wicked Strong breezed five furlongs in 1:01.84 seconds Sunday morning in preparation for the Belmont Stakes. The son of Hard Spun is unraced since a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby that has since been flattered by California Chrome and Ride On Curlin's sensational performances in the Preakness. The colt's trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, was pleased with the work, but also acknowledged how tough a spot the Belmont is shaping up to be.
"He looked good. Everything is on schedule so far," said Jerkens. "It's going to be a contentious field, that's for sure, which it figured to be with a lot of horses skipping the Preakness. The top two from the Peter Pan are going. They'll all be there; it'll be something. I don't know the exact day he'll breeze next week; it depends on how he gallops in between. It depends on a million things, but you can't get ready for a mile and a half keeping him in the barn."
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Samraat took to the main track on Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack, turning in a 48.84 four-furlong breeze in his first workout since finishing fifth, beaten 5 ¾ lengths by Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby.
"It was a recreational move, a maintenance breeze," said Rick Violette, who trains Samraat for Leonard Riggio's My Meadowview Farm. "He stretched his legs, had a good time out there, and pulled up well."
Samraat, a New York-bred, opened his career with five wins, including scores in the Grade 3 Withers in February and Grade 3 Gotham in March at Aqueduct Racetrack. He was second by 3 ½ lengths to Wicked Strong in Aqueduct's Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial in April.
"The Belmont is under serious consideration without fully committing," Violette said of the colt's status for the Belmont Stakes.
The trainer added that Samraat likely will breeze one mile next week on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
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Christophe Clement, who is likely to send out Tonalist in the Belmont, expressed his admiration for California Chrome, but is not concerned about who will line up against his trainee on June 7. Tonalist was a dominant winner of the Grade 2 Peter Pan, the traditional prep race for the Belmont Stakes.
"He's had an easy week; he'll have a breeze this coming Saturday," said Clement. "I'm not going to worry too much about the field because there's not much I can do about it. I saw that California Chrome was very impressive yesterday and I congratulate his connections because it's a great feat."