Trainer Todd Pletcher sent his two 150th Belmont Stakes (G1) hopefuls over Belmont Park’s good dirt training track on Friday with new workout partners.
Wood Memorial (G2) winner VINO ROSSO and Louisiana Derby (G2) scorer NOBLE INDY breezed in company last week, clocking a bullet half-mile in :47.04 over Belmont’s fast main track in their first works since the Kentucky Derby (G1). However, they were separated for Friday’s final major moves ahead of the June 9 Belmont Stakes.
“Last week on the main track, they worked together and went a little quicker than I wanted,” Pletcher said. “I didn’t want to do that again. Today I wanted a long, stamina-building work.”
Noble Indy, who finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby, visited the training track wearing blinkers and accompanied by allowance romper Hyndford. With Javier Castellano aboard, the Take Charge Indy colt breezed five-eighths in a bullet 1:01.22.
Jockey John Velazquez guided Vino Rosso through a five-eighths breeze in 1:01.55 in company with popular four-year-old Patch. The chestnut son of Curlin recorded just his second breeze since a ninth-place run in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill on May 5.
“I thought they both worked very well,” said Pletcher, who is looking for a second straight Belmont Stakes victory following Tapwrit’s win in 2017. “We got the type of (Belmont) work we were hoping for, kind of a long steady five-eighths with a big gallop-out. I got them both in around 1:42 for the mile which was what I was looking for. Both of them showed they were in good form.
“The thing I liked about both horses was the work on the main track (last week) was as good as I’ve seen them go,” he added. “I’m glad we got it in when we did. I think they showed last week they handled the main track very well and I hope that proves to be the case (in the Belmont).”
Pletcher admits his pair have a tough task ahead in defeating Justify in the Belmont Stakes.
“I feel as good as I can feel,” he said. “With the five weeks in between races, and that they’ve been here at Belmont since two days after the Derby, we’re hoping that will give them a little bit of an edge. (However,) I think, like all of us, we need Justify to wake up on the wrong side of the bed to have a chance.”
Trainer Chad Brown called an audible in deciding not to breeze GRONKOWSKI as scheduled on Friday. The listed winner was set for his final Belmont Stakes breeze but the morning rain convinced Brown to move his charge’s work to Saturday.
“I was going to work and I waited until after the break, I wasn’t comfortable going today,” Brown said. “It’s just bad luck. I was moving it up a day anyway because there might be some rain. I prefer to work Saturday anyway, but I was prepared to work today.”
The conditioner indicated Gronkowski might go over Belmont’s main track after the mid-morning break.
“Preferably, tomorrow is a day I’d want him to work. I’m not going to hold myself to it, but probably (after the break),” he said.
Gronkowski is named after New England Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who purchased a share of the horse as he readied for the Kentucky Derby. The Lonhro colt won the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, and received an invitation to take part in the Run for the Roses, but developed an infection and was forced to skip that contest.
He was subsequently switched from trainer Jeremy Noseda to Brown, who sent Gronkowski out for his first U.S. breeze at Belmont Park on May 26. The colt recorded a half-mile in :47.99.
Peter Pan Stakes (G3) and Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) scorer BLENDED CITIZEN galloped 1 1/2 miles on Belmont’s main track Friday. Trainer Doug O’Neill has the Proud Citizen colt scheduled to post his final major Belmont Stakes move prior to the first race on Saturday and is hoping the track will have dried out by then.
“It’s been hectic, but we’re excited to work him,” O’Neill said. “Things have been going well. Hopefully everything goes well tomorrow, and then we’re just going to train him lightly up to the big day.”
The field for the 2018 Belmont Stakes will be drawn Tuesday evening. Expected to show up in the drawing are (in alphabetical order with jockeys): Bandua (TBD), Blended Citizen (Kyle Frey), Bravazo (Luis Saez), Free Drop Billy (Robby Albarado), Gronkowski (Jose Ortiz), Hofburg (Irad Ortiz Jr.), Justify (Mike Smith), Noble Indy (Javier Castellano), Restoring Hope (Florent Geroux), Seahenge (Ryan Moore), Tenfold (Ricardo Santana Jr.) and Vino Rosso (John Velazquez).