by NYRA Press Office
• Joevia set for G1 Belmont Stakes; Mind Control gearing up for G1 Woody Stephens
• G1 Preakness winner War of Will arrives at Belmont Park
• Tax leans towards Belmont Stakes start; gets new jockey in Irad Ortiz, Jr.
• Thunder Snow arrives for G1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap
• Everfast posts final breeze for G1 Belmont
• Come Dancing finding her rhythm for G1 Ogden Phipps
• Code of Honor targeting G3 Dwyer
• Hennig hoping for more formful race from Bourbon War in G1 Belmont
Michael and Jeff Fazio's Joevia will make his next start in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday, trainer Gregory Sacco confirmed by phone Monday morning.
Joevia rebounded from a Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets effort, in which he was disqualified and placed 11th, with a strong showing in winning the Long Branch at 1 1/16 miles on May 12 at Monmouth Park, earning a personal-best 89 Beyer Speed Figure.
Sacco said jockey Jose Lezcano will pick up the mount in the 1 1/2-mile "Test of the Champion," which will mark Sacco's first-ever trainee in an American Classic.
Sacco added that Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables' Mind Control came out of his Saturday breeze [1:00.61] in good order and remains on target for the, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, one of eight Grade 1 races set for Belmont Stakes Day.
"They both came out of their works great and went back to the track today and both did well. It's been good." Sacco said.
Joevia's only off-the-board finish in five career starts came in the Wood Memorial, when he caused interference breaking from outermost post 11 on April 6 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Joevia, who won his debut in July at Monmouth before running second in back-to-back stakes in the Jimmy Winkfield in February at Aqueduct and the Private Terms on March 16 at Laurel Park, will be making his first start at Belmont and running at longer than 1 1/8 miles. Joevia breezed Saturday at Monmouth Park, where he is stabled, going five furlongs in a minute flat, handily.
Lezcano will be making his fifth career start in the Belmont and first since 2012, when he finished a career-best fourth with Street Life. His previous runners include Monzon (ninth, 2011), Ice Box (eighth, 2010) and Miners Escape (10th, 2009). Lezcano's best-ever finish in a Classic came with Ice Box, who ran second to Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby.
Mind Control will be running at the Woody Stephens distance of seven furlongs for the second straight race and will look to build on his 1 ¼-length win in the Grade 3 Bay Shore on April 6 at the Big A in which he garnered a personal-best 97 Beyer.
Both horses are expected to arrive at Belmont on Wednesday after traveling from Monmouth at around 8 a.m., Sacco said.
G1 Preakness winner War of Will arrives at Belmont Park
Grade 1 Preakness winner War of Will arrived at trainer Mark Casse's barn on the Belmont Park backstretch early Monday morning by van from his Keeneland base in Lexington, Kentucky.
Joining War of Will on the journey were stablemates Chocolate Kisses and Got Stormy.
Owned by Gary Barber, War of Will walked the shed row and was bathed shortly upon arrival. He will train on the main track at 8:45 a.m. along with Sir Winston who also is pointing to the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
"He got here this morning, he walked, and they bathed him," said Casse's assistant Jamie Begg. "He was on his toes when he got in this morning, but he settled in now. He's happy. This barn is good because it's kind of secluded, so it's kind of quiet."
Prior to a 1 ¼-length victory in the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the War Front colt was a troubled seventh in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby following the disqualification of Maximum Security. He kicked off his 3-year-old campaign with wins in the Grade 3 Lecomte and Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds in the winter.
War of Will began his training under the supervision of Begg last summer at Belmont Park.
Bred in Kentucky by Flaxman Holdings, War of Will is out of the Sadler's Wells broodmare Visions of Clarity, who produced Irish Group 1 winner Pathfork and is a half-sister to 1997 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Spinning World. Casse' brother, bloodstock agent Justin Casse, purchased War of Will overseas last May at the Arqana Breeze Up Sale in France for just under $300,000.
Tax leans towards Belmont Stakes start; gets new jockey in Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Trainer Danny Gargan confirmed Tax's status for the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets. The Arch gelding, owned by R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable, will pick up a new rider, with former Belmont Stakes-winning jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. taking the call.
Tax, whose status for the "Test of the Champion" was uncertain following Saturday's four-furlong breeze in 49.03 seconds on Belmont's main track, was given new glue-on shoes and showed enough to now be part of an expected 10-horse field for the third leg of the Triple Crown.
"He looked like a million dollars out there this morning," said Gargan.
The post-position draw for the 151st Belmont Stakes will take place Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Citi Field before the Mets take on the San Francisco Giants.
Ortiz, Jr. will be making his fifth career start in the Belmont. The 26-year-old won the 1 ½-mile challenge in 2016 aboard Creator and last year piloted Hofburg to a third-place finish in a Belmont Stakes that saw Justify post a Triple Crown-clinching victory.
Tax will be Gargan's first Belmont Stakes trainee. The Wood Memorial runner-up will be making his first start since being placed 14th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby last month.
Thunder Snow arrives for G1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap
Godolphin's Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap contender Thunder Snow hasarrived at Belmont Park from his Newmarket, UK, spring/summer base and entered quarantine. The two-time Group 1 Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline winner touched down on American soil on Sunday, his first time in the States since his third-place finish in the 2018 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in early November.
"He arrived in good order," trainer Saeed bin Suroor said. "Everything is going well and the horse is doing fine. He's ready to race. He is in quarantine now and will gallop this week leading up to the race."
After his valiant effort in the World Championships, he shipped to Dubai and wintered at Godolphin's Al Quoz Stables through his history-making triumph in the world's richest race. He shipped to Godolphin's Newmarket base in April and has trained there since.
Thunder Snow is expected to clear quarantine on Tuesday and will train on the Belmont training track. Bin Suroor is expected to arrive later in the week to saddle the earner of more than $16 million.
Everfast posts final breeze for G1 Belmont
Preakness Stakes runner-up Everfast flaunted speed and fitness in his final serious preparation for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets when he covered five furlongs in 1:01 flat at Churchill Downs Monday morning.
With exercise rider Faustino Aguilar at the helm, Everfast broke off from the half-mile pole and clocked splits of 12.80 24.40, and 48.60 seconds with a gallop out to six furlongs in 1:13.60 and seven furlongs in 1:28. The move was the second for the son of Take Charge Indy in six days, as he also drilled a half-mile in :50.20 at Churchill on May 29.
"Everfast worked great today. It's a mile and a half race so we crammed two works back to back to make sure he is plenty fit," trainer Dale Romans said. "The way he worked out there this morning he looked great. He went even early and finished fast and didn't want to pull up, which might be key going into the Belmont."
Monday's work was the fastest five furlongs Everfast has officially recorded dating to last summer. Though the colt's closing kick nearly allowed him to complete a Hail Mary-pass as a 29-1 longshot in the Preakness, Romans wouldn't be surprised to see Calumet Farm's charge laying closer in the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes - a race where tactical speed is most crucial.
"I would say going a mile-and-a-half, any horse can be where they want. They're going to be going so slowly early on," the Eclipse Award-winning trainer said. "I just felt like in the Preakness, even though he was coming off of a sprint, he'd have a strong finishing kick and it looked like a lot of speed in the race. But I'll let the jockey figure it out in the Belmont.
"In the Belmont, by the time they get to the eighth pole, they are all tired," he added. "It is hard for a horse to kick. So I would think he would be laying a little bit closer."
Upsetting the apple cart at a New York venue would be no new venture for Romans, who famously saddled Keen Ice to a stunning triumph over Triple Crown hero American Pharoah in the 2015 Grade 1 Travers Stakes. With one win in 11 starts, Everfast has been under the radar for most of his career but did tease of things to come when he ran second at odds of 128-1 in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes on February 2.
"He's coming into it as good as he could be," Romans said. "I didn't see [going to the Preakness] as big a chance as a lot of the media did. I feel like we are taking a horse that is live...and at the Preakness I think we took a live longshot.
"He showed [in the Holy Bull] then that he could compete with good horses. And like I've said many times now that once they show it that they can, then don't give up on them."
Come Dancing finding her rhythm for G1 Ogden Phipps
Blue Devil Racing's Come Dancing appears to be better than ever with two stylish graded stakes wins resulting in triple digit Beyer Speed figures, but she'll seek her first Grade 1 victory in the $700,000 Ogden Phipps on Saturday.
Trained by Carlos Martin, the daughter of Malibu Moon recorded her final work in preparation for the 1 1/16 mile event over the main track on Friday, going six furlongs in 1:11.40 with regular rider Manny Franco aboard.
"It was an eye-catching work, Manny just sat on her and she was cruising the whole way around," said Martin.
Two starts back, Come Dancing won the Grade 3 Distaff at Aqueduct and recorded a 114 Beyer, the fastest speed figure in a graded stakes race this year. She followed that victory with another nice win in the Grade 2 Ruffian on May 5 over "Big Sandy". The consistent Come Dancing has won six of her 10 career starts.
"I'm excited about the opportunity, she deserves it," Martin said. "I'm glad that we're home. I know that there are some other nice ones like Midnight Bisou, but I wouldn't trade places with anyone, honestly."
A victory in the Ogden Phipps would give Martin his first Grade 1 win since Buy the Firm won the Grade 1 Top Flight in 1991.
"It would mean everything," Martin said. "I've been in this game a long time. My father [Jose Martin] and grandfather [Frank 'Pancho' Martin], unfortunately they aren't around anymore but they were great trainers. My dad had some good fillies over the years with Wayward Lass a champion in 1981 and 1977 champion Lakeville Miss, so hopefully I'll keep that tradition going. It's been a long time to be in these kind of races. I kind of took it for granted growing up with those guys and now it's special to have a really good horse in the barn again. It means a lot."
A Kentucky homebred, Come Dancing is by Malibu Moon and out of the graded stakes winning Tiznow broodmare Tizahit, who won the Grade 2 Demoiselle in 2009.
Code of Honor targeting G3 Dwyer
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey had a trio of stakes runners work over the weekend at Belmont led by Kentucky Derby runner-up Code of Honor, who breezed an easy half-mile in 49.95 seconds on Saturday over the Belmont main track.
After crossing the wire in third, Code of Honor was elevated to second place in the Derby following the disqualification of Maximum Security. McGaughey said his next race will be the Grade 3, $250,000 Dwyer on July 6 at Belmont, with a long-range goal of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course.
"He worked good and galloped out good, nice and easy," said McGaughey. "We gave him a break after the Derby hoping to have him ready for summertime racing and that's seemed to do him good; his two breezes since have been good. We'll go to the Dwyer next and it would be nice if we could get him to the Travers, too."
McGaughey also worked two quality turf runners from his barn, Inspector Lynley and Breaking the Rules, on Sunday at Belmont, with the former going four furlongs in 49.88 over the inner turf and the latter breezing five panels in 1:01.87 on the main track.
Usually a model of consistency, Inspector Lynley failed to fire his best race last out in the Grade 2 Dixie on May 18 at Pimlico, finishing sixth at odds of 3-1.
"I don't know what happened there, I guess he just didn't handle the turf down there," said McGaughey. "He came back and worked good the other day and we'll go to the Wise Dan at Churchill next."
Breaking the Rules turned in a similarly disappointing effort in his last race, the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill, in which he finished last of 13. Prior to the race, the War Front colt had been on an upward trajectory having registered two strong performances in stakes at Gulfstream before taking a step back in the Turf
"He had been very consistent, we pointed him to that race, and it didn't work out," said McGaughey. "We backed off him after the race and he's done well since. We'll probably work him on the turf next week and he'll go to the Poker [Grade 3, $300,000 - June 16] next. I think a mile, a mile and a sixteenth is his best distance and hopefully we catch a firm turf."
Hennig hoping for more formful race from Bourbon War in G1 Belmont
In the weeks following Bourbon War's eighth-place finish the Grade 1 Preakness, trainer Mark Hennig has examined and reexamined all the factors that might have gone into the Tapit colt's disappointing performance, from racing for the first time with blinkers to being confused by the circumstances - mainly the loose horse - to being unfamiliar with the turns at Pimlico
"There's no indication why he threw in that race," mused Hennig Monday morning after the Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable color-bearer galloped 1 1/8 miles over the main track at Belmont Park, where he will likely face nine others in Saturday's 151st running of the Belmont Stakes.
"If you look at the chart of the race, he went from eighth, to eleventh, to eighth - maybe when he was taken outside on the backside he thought he was supposed to ease up because he was out of the bridle for about a quarter-mile, then picked it up again in the stretch."
Certainly, said Hennig, there seemed to be no physical reason for it.
"He was not tired at all after the race," said Hennig. "I don't know how much running he actually did. I held him for a bath after the race and he bit me in the stomach and tore my shirt. He was actually angry after the Preakness."
Bourbon War has been nothing but bright and happy since returning to Belmont Park, said Hennig, having turned in a half-mile work in 48.74 seconds on Thursday. On Saturday, the blinkers - which were added after Bourbon War's fourth-place effort behind Maximum Security, Bodexpress and Code of Honor in the Grade 1 Florida Derby - will be removed, and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, a three-time winner of the "Test of the Champion" will be aboard.
"Put a line through the Preakness? Hopefully, that's the right thing to do," Hennig said.
Pletcher's Intrepid Heart, Spinoff fit the mold for G1 Belmont
Todd Pletcher may not have the precise formula for winning the "Test of the Champion," but with a 3-5-3 record since his first starter in 2000 (Impeachment finished fifth), he appears to have a line on some of the elements that lead to a successful performance in the Belmont Stakes, which will be run for the 151st time on Saturday.
That is why Pletcher, who won the 1 ½-mile race in 2007 with the filly Rags to Riches, in 2012 with Palace Malice and in 2017 with Tapwrit, will be saddling both Intrepid Heart, third in the Grade 3 Peter Pan on May 11 at Belmont Park, and Spinoff, second-to-last in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, in the 1 ½-mile race.
"In Intrepid Heart's case, literally, since the day he was purchased [for $750,000], the thought was in our minds that this horse is really bred for the Belmont Stakes," he said of Robert and Lowana Low's Tapit colt. "Tapit has had tremendous success as a stallion in the Belmont, and this horse is out of a Touch Gold mare, and Touch Gold won the Belmont.
"He's also a half-brother to Commissioner, who lost [by a head to Tonalist] in the  Belmont," he added. "There's a strong pedigree indication he'll handle the mile-and-a-half."
Intrepid Heart has only started three times, breaking his maiden at Oaklawn Park by 7 ¾ lengths in February, taking an optional claimer at Keeneland in April and finishing third in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan after stumbling at the start. On Saturday, he will be sporting blinkers for the first time in a race.
"John [Velazquez] has always thought he might need them, especially in his last race," said Pletcher. "His last two works have been with blinkers, and he's seemed a little more focused and a little less distracted by his workmate but not at all overzealous. And hopefully, his little lack of experience will be offset by the one-and-a-half miles."
Spinoff, a Wertheimer et Frere homebred, was 2-1-1 in four starts heading into the Derby, in which he was wide throughout and faded to finish 18 lengths behind Maximum Security.
"He did not like the sloppy track in the Derby, and he's come back from Churchill Downs and done well since," said Pletcher, whose Tapwrit and Palace Malice both came off off-the-board finishes in the Derby to win the Belmont on five weeks rest. "His penultimate breeze [five furlongs in 59.91 seconds on May 25], I got him galloping out a mile in 1:37 3/5, which again is kind of consistent with the other breezes in other years with horses like Commissioner, Destin [second in 2016], Palace Malice, Rags to Riches and Tapwrit."
Third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in his second start as a 2-year-old, the Hard Spun colt posted a front-running win in his 2019 debut at Tampa Bay Downs and then finished second after gaining the lead in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.