A day after his gleaming copper-colored colt Drosselmeyer won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) for WinStar Farms, trainer Bill Mott said he's looking forward to his primary goal this summer, the $1 million Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 28.
“As Elliott (Walden, racing manager for WinStar) said yesterday, the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont winner have to sort themselves out and see who’s best by the end of the year,” Mott said from his Belmont barn the morning of June 6.
WinStar also owns Super Saver , who captured the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) for trainer Todd Pletcher. The other 3-year-old Classic winner this year is Preakness Stakes (gr. I) victor Lookin At Lucky , from the Bob Baffert stable, leaving the 3-year-old male division up for grabs.
“We’d like to think, come Saratoga time, at the end of the meet they run the Travers, and that maybe he’d have an opportunity to run in there,” Mott said. “That’s what I’m hoping.”
Walden told Associated Press that both both Drosselmeyer and Super Saver will be pointed toward the Travers. Each will likely get one prep, the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park Aug. 1 or the $500,000 Jim Dandy (gr. II) at Saratoga July 31.
"We are blessed to have both horses and, you know, we'll probably look to separate them in the next start, but probably come together in the Travers and see what happens," Walden said. "I think you can group all three (Classic winners) together. It's hard to really differentiate between them until we get into the Haskell and the Travers and then the Breeder's Cup Classic (gr. I).
"I think the rest of the year will decide who the best is. As we sit here today, I've got to believe that we have two of the top three in Drosselmeyer and Super Saver."
After celebrating his first Belmont Stakes win by having dinner with family and friends, the 57-year-old Mott reported that Drosselmeyer came out of his three-quarter-length victory over Fly Down in good order.
“He’s still shiny,” quipped Mott.
The 1 1/2-mile Belmont marked the first appearance in this year’s Triple Crown series for Drosselmeyer, who was excluded from the Kentucky Derby based on graded-stakes earnings. His two victories prior to the Belmont comprised a maiden win at Churchill Downs and an allowance victory at Gulfstream Park; he subsequently was fourth in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) and third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II).
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m very content having won the Belmont and not run in the Derby,” Mott said, “because that’s the way it worked out. He didn’t earn his way into the Derby. And I believe things happen for a reason.”
Drosselmeyer prepped for his Belmont victory in the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park May 8, a race in which he finished second, beaten six lengths, as the 3-5 favorite. Following that race, the decision was made to replace jockey Kent Desormeaux with Mike Smith.
“I don’t think Kent really did anything wrong on this horse,” Mott said. “Some things were not developing or opening up the way we’d like them to, or he wanted it to, but it was through no fault of his.”
In addition to the Belmont victory, which Mott said had yet to sink in, the trainer also teamed with Smith to win the Just a Game (gr. IT) with Juddmonte Farms’ Proviso. “She’s great,” Mott said. “By the time we got back with the Belmont horse she had already eaten up and had her head over the screen, looking out.”
Trainer Nick Zito said that his Belmont colts, Fly Down and favored Ice Box , who finished ninth, also were fine the morning after the race.
“Ice Box, we scoped him after the race and he was clean. He had no blood, and no mucus,” Zito said. “However, he did displace, he flipped his palate. He’s an excitable horse. He’s a Pulpit, he’s out of a Tabasco Cat mare. It was very, very hot down here; we didn’t catch a break that way. The last two days he was ready to explode, he was ready to do something, and he probably left his race somewhere else other than the track.
“Fly Down, he ran a great race. Obviously a lot of people give Mike Smith credit, rightfully so, because he kept him in. (Fly Down) couldn’t get clear until the very end, and you saw what he did in the lane. It was remarkable how he got second. As soon as he got clear, he beat First Dude , again. Terrific horse.”
Zito has saddled 24 Belmont starters, winning the race twice: in 2004 with Birdstone and 2008 with Da' Tara, both Triple Crown upsets. Fly Down was Zito’s seventh Belmont Stakes runner-up, and the trainer also owns two third-place finishes in the race.
Zito is looking ahead to the Travers for Richard Pell’s Fly Down, but said he would also consider the race for Preakness third-place finisher Jackson Bend. Robert LaPenta is the majority owner of Jackson Bend, and also owns Ice Box.
“I’d like to go straight to the Haskell with Ice Box because if he gets any kind of pace, he’s a much better horse," Zito said. "We’ll see what Mr. LaPenta wants to do, but he’s still one of the better three-year-olds around. He had a legitimate excuse yesterday. I think the ultimate goal is to probably get them all in the Breeders’ Cup, then work our way backwards from there."
First Dude, who led the Belmont field until deep stretch, came out of his third-place effort well, trainer Dale Romans said.
“He’s fine,” Romans said. “It doesn’t seem like the race took too much out of him, but we’ll see when we get back (to Kentucky). I think he ran hard and tried the whole way.”
The Travers is the target for First Dude, who is named for Todd Palin, the husband of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the trainer said.