With Visa Triple Crown Challenge contender Smarty Jones biding his time at Philadelphia Park until mid-week, three colts who will attempt to pull an upset in Saturday's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) worked five-eighths of a mile at Belmont Park Monday.
The fastest time among the three was turned in by Rock Hard Ten, who breezed five furlongs in :59, according to trainer Jason Orman. The Kris S. colt, who finished second to Smarty Jones in the Preakness Stakes, worked in company with 2002 Belmont winner Sarava. With John Byrne aboard, Rock Hard Ten started off a couple of lengths behind Sarava and steadily gained on his workmate before passing him late in the breeze. The final time for Sarava was :59 2/5.
"It was awesome. He was just cruising around there," Orman said. "He went by Sarava and still was very focused. He loves this track and was really getting hold of it. The last two days he's galloped as good as he's ever galloped and this work was as good as I have ever seen him work."
Also pleased by his colt's workout was Todd Pletcher, who said Purge will be entered in the Belmont after breezing five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 Monday. Pletcher said a decision will be made later in the week on whether Purge will run.
"I saw what I was looking for this morning," said Pletcher. "We just wanted him to sit behind another horse (stablemate Savoy Special) and finish and that is exactly what we got. We are definitely going to enter and see how he comes out of the work. He's been moving great, looking great and his energy level is very high and there really is no downside to running him. Right now, (owner) Jack Wolf is leaning toward wanting to run."
Purge has won three of five starts, with his losses being a runner-up effort in the Rebel Stakes and a fifth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), both won by Smarty Jones.
Meanwhile, trainer Nick Zito said the 1:01 1/5 clocking for Royal Assault's five furlong work, in tandem with Gulch Approval, was "just what I wanted. He went very well."
Zito said Royal Assault, also a son of Kris S., earned a ticket to the Belmont with a victory in the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness card of May 15 at Pimlico. "He ran well enough to earn the right to be here in the Belmont," Zito said.
Undefeated Smarty Jones, the Elusive Quality
colt who won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness in impressive fashion, is scheduled to ship to Belmont on Wednesday.