(from Churchill Downs stable notes)
Belmont Stakes (gr. I) contender Denis of Cork tuned up for a run at unbeaten Triple Crown challenger Big Brown on June 7 with a strong five-furlong workout May 26 at Churchill Downs.
Jockey Robby Albarado was in the irons as Dennis of Cork, who finished a late-running third to Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), zipped the five-furlong distance over a “fast” track in :59 4/5. Mr. and Mrs. William Warren’s 3-year-old son of Harlan's Holiday galloped out six furlongs in 1:13. The move by trainer David Carroll’s colt ranked as third-fastest of 21 on the day.
“For two weeks after the Derby it just took him a little bit of time to get back on his feet and get his energy back, but the last week he’s training beautifully," Carroll said. "He had a good work last week, but this week we wanted a bit more from him. I just told Robby to let him go off ‘twelves’ and let him finish up and gallop out, and he did everything beautifully.”
It is the first time that Albarado had been in the saddle aboard Denis of Cork since the colt’s victory in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 18. Albarado, who is the leading rider of Churchill Downs' spring meet and bidding for his first riding title at the Louisville track, will ride Denis of Cork in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. Calvin Borel had been in the saddle for his third-place run in the Derby.
“He went really well, I thought it was a great work for him,” said Albarado. “It was a nice, long maintenance work. He went fast, too, and was within himself. I’m excited about him and it sets him up great for the Belmont.”
Albarado has won nine grade I races at Belmont Park, but just missed in his first Belmont try last year when he rode eventual Horse of the Year and 3-year-old champion Curlin to a close runner-up finish behind champion filly Rags to Riches. The jockey was impressed by the development of Denis of Cork since his Southwest victory.
“He’s matured a lot and gotten a lot stronger,” Albarado said. “He must have a big set of lungs on him because he gallops out really well and he refuses to pull up. I mean he just wants to keep going and going. So I think the mile-and-a-half (of the Belmont) is going to be conducive to his style.”
Denis of Cork is scheduled for a final pre-Belmont breeze June 2 before flying to New York the following day. Albarado is anxious to get another shot at Big Brown in the final jewel of the Triple Crown.
“It’s a tall order against Big Brown,” said Albarado. “We’ve all seen how impressive he was in the first two legs in the Derby and the Preakness (gr. I), but they become vulnerable in that Belmont for some reason. It’s a totally new dimension at a mile-and-a-half and a new set of fresh horses going at him. I’m not going to count Denis of Cork out. We’ve got a big chance and I’m going to ride him with a chance.”
Denis of Cork brings a two-race losing streak into the Belmont. He won his first three career starts but faltered in a fifth-place finish in the $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II) at Hawthorne prior to the Kentucky Derby.