The rain continued to come down at Belmont Park Thursday morning as several Belmont Stakes (gr. I) contenders tried to stay loose for Saturday's main event. More than two inches of rain fell on Long Island Wednesday and despite a forecast for better conditions for today, a steady rain fell over the site of the third leg of the Triple Crown.
The "dogs" remained up on the main track, blocking off the inside four paths of the racetrack. The track has been sealed since Tuesday.
A slow-moving low front has enveloped the New York metropolitan area and has yet to clear out. The forecast calls for a beautiful day on Friday, Acorn Stakes (gr. I) Day, with clear skies and temperatures in the high 70s. The same forecast is in place for Saturday morning and afternoon, but more showers could be developing late in the afternoon.
Hopes for a fast track on Saturday appear dim.
"There's been a lot of Belmonts run in the mud," said Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, who does not have a starter in the race, but does have a pair of fillies entered for the Acorn. "With a small field, it should be less of a problem. The pros can handle it. Years ago when it rained the frontrunners would have the best of it, but nowadays horses can come from off of it. Years ago, this track used to be a deeper mud."
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had his Belmont hopeful Scrimshaw gallop 1 ¼ miles over the sloppy surface Thursday morning after his horse arrived at Belmont Park Wednesday afternoon. He said his horse hadn't missed any training at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. coming up to the race, which may play to his advantage.
"I never had a day that I didn't do what I wanted to do," he said. "In trying to bring a horse up to the last leg of the Triple Crown, and if the weather's bad, you have to compromise. The one thing you have to worry about is the injury factor. Some horses can handle it, and some can't."
Trainer Bobby Frankel, who trains 6-5 second choice Empire Maker, remains out-right sunny despite the dismal conditions. "He (Empire Maker) won the Wood in this stuff."
Frankel pointed to Empire Maker's sire, Unbridled, as a plus. "Unbridleds love the mud. He didn't, but his offspring do. Saarland ran good the other day (second in the Met Mile, gr. I). All the ones I've seen lately, run good.
"I'm confident; I'm in good shape. I just think he's the best horse."