Edited Press Release
With the race now just two days away, trainer Christophe Clement sent his Belmont Stakes (G1) contender Governor Malibu to the main track for a blow out this morning.
According to the Belmont Stakes notes, the Malibu Moon colt breezed four furlongs in :52 2/5. Clement was pleased with the work and how his trainee is looking heading into Saturday’s race.
“He had a very easy work this morning,” Clement said. “He went out first set, stretched his legs and he looked great. He will school in the paddock later today and we’ll leave it at that.”
Stakes winner and recent Peter Pan (G2) runner-up Governor Malibu drew the rail in the field of 13 and was set at odds of 12-1 on the morning line in Wednesday’s post position draw in Manhattan. Clement was unconcerned with his post position and would leave race tactics up to jockey Joel Rosario.
Clement and Rosario teamed up to win the 2014 Belmont with Tonalist, spoiling California Chrome’s bid for the Triple Crown.
Since 1905, the rail is the most successful post for the Belmont with 23 winners.
“I don’t worry about it as much as most people,” Clement said. “I worry about the horse. I know one thing, it’s the shortest way around the track. If you’re lucky enough to use some of the top jockeys you let them worry about that kind of thing.”
After galloping several times around the main track and working five furlongs Wednesday, Koji Maeda’s Japanese invader Lani had a relatively light morning on a bright and brisk Thursday.
Lani, whose five-eighths work in 1:00.43 on Wednesday missed a “bullet” by just .01 seconds, went out shortly before 6:30 a.m. (ET). After jogging and walking once around the track, he was taken over to school at the starting gate without incident, and he then made another easy circuit of the 1 1/2-mile oval before heading back to Barn 6 just after 7 a.m.
“He had a good morning and was OK at the gate,” said trainer Mikio Matsunaga, who arrived Tuesday afternoon to oversee Lani’s final preparations.
Along with Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Exaggerator, Lani is the only other horse to run in all three Triple Crown races this year. After breaking slowly and finishing ninth in the Derby, the gray Tapit colt bobbled at the break of the Preakness and rallied from far back to finish fifth.
“He is definitely not going to be in the first half of the field, but he will hopefully be much closer than last time,” said Keita Tanaka, the agent representing Maeda. “The pace will not be as fast, and he is very fit now.”
Two days out from the race, Belmont Stakes contenders Brody’s Cause and Cherry Wine had an uneventful morning on the main track Thursday for trainer Dale Romans.
Romans switched gears after giving multiple Grade 1 winner Brody’s Cause and Preakness Stakes (G1) runner-up Cherry Wine longer, endurance-building exercises for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.
“We shortened them up a little bit today and did a little less,” Romans said. “Everything’s done. I just want them to be happy and feel good going into Saturday.”
Luis Saez has the call aboard Brody’s Cause, while Corey Lanerie will ride Cherry Wine.
The morning after his Belmont Stakes hopefuls, Grade 2 winner Destin and Preakness fourth-placer Stradivari, drew post 2 and 5, respectively, trainer Todd Pletcher said the assignments suited him.
“They seem fine,” Pletcher said. “Generally, in the Belmont, you don’t sweat out the post position draw too much, but when it gets to be a field as big as this you really don’t want to be way out there.”
Destin races for Randy Gullatt and Steve Davison’s Twin Creeks Racing Stables and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. Gullatt bought the son of Giant’s Causeway as a Keeneland September yearling for $400,000. Shortly before the Kentucky Derby (G1), a race in which Destin finished sixth, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners acquired a minority interest in the colt.
Gullatt, who remembers the younger Destin “as a very athletic colt” with “a good mind and disposition,” said he has never been in a hurry with Destin, who has not run since the May 7 Kentucky Derby.
“We’re not overly concerned with the time off,” Gullatt said. “We felt like Destin was an immature colt through the first part of his three-year-old year and that his best racing was in front of him. We believe he could be an even better older horse.”
Pletcher agrees with Gullatt’s take.
“He’s the kind of horse that wears blinkers for a reason,” the trainer said. “He’s curious, he looks around a lot, he sees everything. I think as a whole, a lot of the Giant’s Causeways tend to improve as they get older.
“In (Destin’s) case, not only physically will he continue to develop but mentally he has started to get a little more professional and figure things out. I think from all aspects, he will improve when he gets a littler older.”
Grade 3 winner and Belmont Stakes hopeful Suddenbreakingnews, who arrived at Belmont on a flight from Churchill Downs Tuesday, continued his regular preparations with a routine gallop Thursday morning under Brandon Velarde, trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel’s Remington Park-based exercise rider, and also visited the paddock.
“There are no hiccups. We had a clean trip from Kentucky, everything has been smooth since we got here and he seems to be in good shape. We’re happy, healthy and ready to go,” Von Hemel commented.
“I thought all the way through the spring and right up to the Derby that he had added some weight. Maybe he dropped a little coming out of the Derby, but he’s put it all back on, so he’s in very similar shape to what he was going into the Derby.
“I think the distance is very much in our favor, and I think that pedigree-wise it is within his ability, and he can run a mile and a half and there are some that can’t. We skipped the Preakness and some didn’t, and hopefully that will be an advantage to us. But I still think Exaggerator will be tough to beat.”
Jockey Mike Smith, a 17-time Belmont Stakes veteran and two-time winner of the race, picked up the mount on Suddenbreakingnews Saturday.
“How often do you get to ride a mile-and-a-half race on a mile-and-a-half racetrack?” Von Hemel questions. “We did look for someone with experience on how to ride this race.”
Both of trainer Steve Asmussen’s entries into the Belmont Stakes, Arkansas Derby (G1) hero Creator and stakes-placed Gettysburg, were scheduled to paddock school before Thursday’s 3RD race, according to assistant trainer Toby Sheets.
Governor Malibu, Lani & Suddenbreakingnews photos courtesy of Harold Roth/Horsephotos.com