Belmont Stakes up for grabs to end uneven Triple Crown

Leave a comment

NEW YORK — This year’s topsy-turvy Triple Crown trail comes to an end in a Belmont Stakes without the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners or the expected favorite who dropped out. It does come with questions about a Japanese horse with a sore foot.

No horse has dominated the 3-year-old ranks so far, leaving the 1+-mile Belmont up for grabs among 12 horses that on Saturday will run the longest race of their lives.

The 7-2 early favorite Irish War Cry is only in the Belmont after trainer Graham Motion licked his wounds from the colt’s 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby five weeks ago.

“When you get beaten as one of the favorites in the Derby, it’s pretty discouraging and you just want to put it behind you,” he said. “My horse is doing well. As long as he’s doing well, he deserved a chance.”

Irish War Cry inherited the role of favorite after Classic Empire was forced out earlier in the week with an abscess in his hoof.

Watch: 2017 Belmont Stakes (Saturday at 3 p.m. ET)

Speculation on the status of early 4-1 second choice Epicharis continued to swirl Friday after the colt didn’t train for a third straight day because of his sore right front hoof.

He was examined by veterinarians from the New York Racing Association and the Japan Racing Association, but no details on his condition were given. His trainer, Kiyoshi Hagiwara, didn’t speak to the media.

Epicharis received a treatment of the legal anti-inflammatory Phenylbutazone, or bute, on Wednesday for what was described as lameness in his right front leg.

The colt stood in ice to help his hoof and was fitted with a glue-on shoe, an alternative for horses with a damaged hoof. Instead of being nailed on, which could cause more soreness, the plastic-coated shoe is wrapped around the hoof wall.

Martin Panza, vice president of racing for NYRA, said Epicharis was walking soundly Friday.

“They feel confident they can make the race tomorrow, but they’re still going to monitor the horse,” he said of the Japanese team. “Obviously the horse comes first, and if there are any problems, they’ll re-evaluate. Right now they’re very comfortable that the horse is comfortable and much better than he was two days ago.”

Epicharis last trained on the track Tuesday. He hasn’t raced since finishing second in the UAE Derby on March 25.

“He’s a nice horse to ride because you can use any tactics,” said Christophe Lemaire, his French jockey. “If there’s no pace at all, he can lead or he can sit in second position. A mile and a half is a long way to go, but in his previous races he has shown us some stamina.”

A victory would earn Epicharis a $1 million bonus from NYRA, which worked to lure a horse from Japan.

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming finished eighth in the Preakness, so he is skipping the Belmont. His trainer Todd Pletcher has two shots at winning the $1.5 million race on his home track: He will saddle 6-1 fourth choice Tapwrit and one-eyed Patch.

Tapwrit was sixth in the Derby and Patch was 14th.

“I think he ran a sneaky good race in the Derby,” Pletcher said of Tapwrit. “I don’t think it would be a surprise if either of them ran well.”

Cloud Computing skipped the Derby, won the Preakness and is sitting out the Belmont. His trainer Chad Brown has 20-1 shot Twisted Tom, who brings a three-race winning streak into the race on his home track.

Lookin At Lee will be the only horse to run in all three Triple Crown races. He was second in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness. He’s the early 5-1 third choice on Saturday.

Gormley, ninth in the Derby, flew from his Southern California base to take a shot after staying home from the Preakness.

Multiplier sat out the Derby and was sixth in the Preakness.

The longest shot in the field is 30-1 Hollywood Handsome, who along with 15-1 Meantime, didn’t run in either of the first two legs.

J Boys Echo is one of five Belmont runners who skipped the Preakness after running in the Derby, a route taken last year by Belmont winner Creator. Trainer Dale Romans is ready to get his hands on the trophy after finishing third four times.

“The mile and a half should help him and hopefully we’re going to see the best of him,” Romans said. “He’s got a good rhythm to the way he runs and I think that’s important going that far.”

Belmont Park’s deep, sandy track and sweeping turns can wipe out a tiring horse and benefit a closer able to negotiate the long stretch.

Senior Investment surged late to take third in the Preakness and his trainer, Ken McPeek, won the 2002 Belmont with 70-1 shot Sarava. In 2012, he trained 20-1 shot Atigun to a third-place finish.

“This thing is wide open, completely wide open,” McPeek said. “It will be interesting to see it unfold.”

Late owner of Secretariat to receive Big Sport of Turfdom

Getty Images
Leave a comment

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Penny Chenery, who owned Triple Crown winner Secretariat, will be presented posthumously with the Big Sport of Turfdom award given to a person who enhances coverage of thoroughbred racing through cooperation with media and racing publicists.

The Turf Publicists of America said Monday that Chenery will receive the award for the second time. She was the winner in 1973, when Secretariat swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

Chenery died Sept. 16 at age 95. For years after Secretariat’s Triple Crown win, she was a careful steward of the colt’s legacy.

The award will be presented to Chenery’s daughter, Kate Tweedy, at the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program’s luncheon on Dec. 5 in Tucson.

Chenery joins two-time winners jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., and trainers Bob Baffert and Carl Nafzger.

Rekindling storms home to win the 157th Melbourne Cup

AP Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia — Rekindling stormed home to win the Melbourne Cup by a long neck on Tuesday, overhauling Johannes Vermeer near the finish to give trainer Joseph O’Brien a victory over his famous father in Australia’s most famous race.

Max Dynamite was 2 + lengths further back in third to give the Irish a 1-2-3 finish in the 157th running of the 2-mile classic .

Joseph O’Brien said one of the first things he did was phone his father, Aidan O’Brien, who trains Johannes Vermeer but was not at Flemington for the race.

“He is delighted. Unbelievable,” the younger O’Brien said. “I’m just so thankful to (Williams). They suggested to bring (Rekindling) down and that he’d have a good chance in the race and his prep went really good, and Corey gave him an unbelievable ride.”

It was a second Melbourne Cup victory for jockey Corey Brown, and a sixth for owner Lloyd Williams, who is also a co-owner of Johannes Vermeer.

“It’s extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary,” Williams said of Joseph O’Brien, who won in his first attempt at the Melbourne Cup. Williams said the 24-year-old former jockey had a big future as a trainer. “He’s going to emulate his father and maybe more.”

Big Duke was the first Australian-trained horse across the line, finishing fourth, in a field containing 11 foreign horses.

British-based jockey Frankie Dettori rode 2016 winner Almandin, which finished 12th.