Cash is King Stable's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Afleet Alex was installed the 6-5 morning-line favorite when 11 horses were entered for Saturday's $1-million Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the third leg of the American Triple Crown.
The Kentucky Derby (gr. I) third-place finisher trained by Tim Ritchey, Afleet Alex will be ridden by regular rider Jeremy Rose as he breaks from post position 9. Giacomo, the upset winner of the Derby, will break from post 5 as the 4-1 second choice and will be ridden by Mike Smith for trainer John Shirreffs.
Ritchey said his colt is coming into the race in top form, and expects another strong ride from jockey Jeremy Rose.
"I have complete confidence in Jeremy and he has complete confidence in Alex," Ritchey said. "I don't see any problems at all."
In discussing possible post positions with Ann Moss, who owns Giacomo with her husband, Jerry, Shirreffs said before the draw he would "not mind number five" because he wanted the colt to start from the middle of the track.
Shirreffs, who is making only his second visit to Belmont Park, said Giacomo left Hollywood Park in southern Calfiornia early Tuesday morning and was expected to arrive in New York in mid-afternoon.
"It's been a fairy-tale," Shirreffs said of his colt's Derby win. "Everything fell into place at the right time."
Trainer Nick Zito, who is winless with eight attempts in the Derby and Preakness, said his three Belmont entrants are all doing well right now.
Noting that Andromeda's Hero (post position 7) "was eighth and not 18th" in the Derby, Zito said the colt "does have some quality" and is a product of a female family with quality stamina runners. "It's all distance, so he will have no trouble with the one-and-one-half miles."
Zito said Pinpoint (PP 2), whose three consecutive victories included the Sir Barton Stakes, is "getting good right now," as is his third Belmont horse, Indy Storm (PP10). "You have to remember, the Triple Crown does wear on them," Zito said in reference to favorites Afleet Alex and Giacomo, both of whom ran in the Derby and Preakness.
Trainer Sal Russo, who is sending out longshot Reverberate, said the outbreak of strangles in Florida delayed his plans to bring the colt north, resulting in three races in a short period of time for his Belmont starter. Russo said Reverberate, breaking from the 8 post position, would ideally assume a stalking position in the 1 1/2 mile race.The post positions, with jockeys and morning-line odds (all carry 126 pounds):
1-- Nolan's Cat, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 50-1
2 -- Pinpoint, John Velazquez, 20-1
3 -- A.P. Arrow, Jerry Bailey, 20-1
4 -- Southern Africa, Jon Court, 12-1
5 -- Giacomo, Mike Smith, 4-1
6 -- Watchmon, Javier Castellano, 50-1
7 -- Andromeda's Hero, Rafael Bejarano, 15-1
8 -- Reverberate, Jose Santos, 6-1
9 -- Afleet Alex, Jeremy Rose, 6-5
10 -- Indy Storm, Edgar Prado, 20-1
11 -- Chekhov, Gary Stevens, 12-1