December 3, 2023

Patch confirmed for Belmont Stakes after breezing with Tapwrit; fever knocks True Timber out of race

Tapwrit (left) and Patch (right) jogged separately at Belmont Park on Thursday, June 1, 2017 (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography

Tampa Bay Derby (G2) hero Tapwrit and Grade 2-placed Patch breezed in company at Belmont Park on Friday morning, going five furlongs in 1:01.45 for trainer Todd Pletcher.

After the move, Pletcher confirmed that Patch would join Tapwrit in the 149th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 10.

“I was happy with the work today,” he said. “I had a quick exchange with the ownership and they’re happy to run. As long as he comes out of it well, I plan to go.”

John Velazquez was aboard Patch while Jose Ortiz held the reins on Tapwrit during Friday’s move. Patch worked inside of Tapwrit over Belmont’s fast main track, and the duo clocked :37 for the first three furlongs and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:14.60.

“I was pleased with both of them,” Pletcher said. “I thought they went well. They seemed to get over the main track in good order. (It was a) good, steady, solid five-eighths, with a pretty strong gallop out. I think we accomplished what we were looking for.”

“They’ve worked together before,” he added. “They have similar grinding-type styles and they’re not overzealous workhorses, so they made a good pair.”

Tapwrit ran sixth and Patch 14th in the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1), which was captured by fellow Pletcher trainee Always Dreaming who is skipping the Belmont. Velazquez piloted Always Dreaming in the Run for the Roses and will take the call on Patch.

“(The Derby was a) tough assignment for (Patch), a lightly raced horse and draws the far outside post,” Pletcher said. “He got a decent trip out of it, I don’t think he relished the sloppy track. (He’s by) Union Rags, a Belmont winner, out of an A.P. Indy mare, there’s a lot of pedigree there to suggest that he’s bred to get the mile and a half, and I think his style should fit the race well.”

In other Belmont Stakes news

Multiple Grade 3-placed True Timber spiked a fever and has been ruled out of Belmont Stakes consideration, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Friday morning.

“He spiked a temperature yesterday,” McLaughlin explained. “He didn’t eat, so we’re off the Belmont trail. Hopefully he just misses a few days of training, but he certainly can’t run.”

Gotham Stakes (G3) winner J Boys Echo is scheduled to breeze at Churchill Downs on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. (ET) for trainer Dale Romans ahead of the Belmont Stakes.

The Mineshaft colt may be reunited with regular rider Robby Albarado in the Belmont after finishing 15th in the Kentucky Derby last out under Luis Saez. Albarado found himself sidelined at Derby time after suffering a fractured leg being unseated in an April 23 race at Keeneland.

“It was tough losing Robby (Albarado) for the Derby,” trainer Dale Romans said. “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway after the start but Robby is still part of the team. He’s a good friend and partner in a lot of big races. I’d love to team up with him for the Belmont if he’s ready.”

Albarado is expected to work horses Saturday morning and resume riding next Thursday at Churchill Downs.

“He’ll make the decision on whether or not he’ll be ready to ride a mile and a half next Saturday,” Romans said. “It’s one thing to be ready to ride an allowance race here going a mile and a sixteenth and another thing to go a mile and a half with classic horses, classic jockeys.

“I think we’re all pretty sure he can do it. We’re just looking if there’s something we don’t know. But we’re not expecting that he can’t, unless he comes back and says, ‘I need a few more days. You’d be better off with somebody else.’ If he tells me he’s ready, I’m going to believe he’s ready. If something goes wrong in the race, I’m not going to believe it’s because he wasn’t ready.”

“If I’m not ready, I won’t do that to Dale,” Albarado said. “If I feel I’m not ready, I won’t take a chance. I’m part of a team here. I’m pulling for them whether I ride for them or not.”