Preakness (G1) hero and likely Belmont S. (G1) favorite Exaggerator is scheduled to breeze Tuesday morning following the main track renovation break at Belmont Park.
“He looks great,” trainer Keith Desormeaux said. “I haven’t seen him in 12 days. I think he put on a few pounds which is always a positive quality, especially when you’re running races that are so close together. To see him gain weight is a big positive. His color also looks good and he also has a nice, calm, confident look in his eye. (Assistant trainer) Julie (Clark) and his groom tell me he’s eating all his meals with vigor. That’s all we can ask for.”
Desormeaux said the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin will jog over the training track Wednesday, walk and school in the paddock Thursday, gallop Friday and possibly school in the paddock during the races.
“I don’t train them typically on race day. Some guys will do that; I prefer not to, especially for horses like him who’s got a great, calm demeanor. He doesn’t need to go out there and release any energy. He releases his energy in the race.
“The track is a little deeper I think than the two that he’s come off of, so that’s why we got him here as early as possible. Last week he two-minute clipped twice; he’s going to breeze tomorrow. That’s all done because of what I think I know about the Belmont surface. It’s a little different – wider sweeping turns; deeper, sandy surface. I wanted to get him more action over the track. Hopefully, it works.”
Trainer Dale Romans is of a similar mindset in preparing his Belmont duo of Brody’s Cause and Cherry Wine.
“The only thing I ever do different really is I train them longer and I leave them on the racetrack a long time doing something to get it in their head that they have to be out there that long,” he said. “The unknown of Big Sandy and the unknown of the mile and a half always plays into this race.”
The connections of Koji Maeda’s Japanese invader Lani will keep an eye on the sky overnight as they weigh their options for his final breeze for the Belmont.
Originally planned for early Wednesday morning after the New York arrival of trainer Mikio Matsunaga on Tuesday afternoon, Keita Tanaka, the agent representing Maeda, indicated that the team may call an audible due to the chance of overnight rain into early Wednesday.
“If [it looks like] the ground will be very wet, we will most likely go a day earlier, even though the trainer will miss it,” Tanaka said on Monday.
The Kentucky-bred son of Tapit worked last Wednesday with the trainer on hand, getting an official five-furlong time of 1:02.09. Known for his lengthy training regimen, Lani has been out to the track every day since, making several customary laps around the 1 1/2-mile oval.
On Sunday, the gray colt posted a three-furlong breeze on the worktab, covering the distance in 38.01, a move that Tanaka described as part of their training plan.
“He really stretched out the last two furlongs,” said Tanaka. “It was not necessarily [meant to be] a timed workout, but we wanted him to pick up his speed.”
Exaggerator photo courtesy NYRA/Coglianese Photography