Without classic winners Barbaro and Bernardini in Saturday's Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the race appears to be wide open. Like in any race, one horse has to be the longest shot on the board. That honor will likely fall to Double Galore. He'll face 11 other 3-year-olds in the 1 ½-mile Belmont.
Double Galore, a son of Grand Slam
is bred, owned, and trained by Myung Kwon Cho. The bay colt has made five starts, all in Southern California, and broke his maiden in his most recent start, a 1 1/16-mile special weight race at Hollywood Park May 19. He faces a tall order in trying the "Test of a Champion" off the one win.
Double Galore, a Kentucky-bred out of the Summer Squall mare Squall Linda, arrived at Belmont Park Wednesday from California. He's bedded down in Barn 25 that houses horses trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott. A placard celebrating Cigar's victory in the inaugural Dubai World Cup adorns the front of the barn.
The colt's advance team is assistant trainer Rafael Martinez, and barn foreman Maria Ayala. They arrived on Monday.
"We've been a few places before, and we've had some luck," Martinez said of the venture to the East Coast. "The trainer likes to take a shot every now and then."
The trainer, however, isn't on the grounds -- and is not even in the same time zone--and probably won't be for the Belmont.
"He was going to come, but he's had some sort of problem with his business and he can't make it," said Martinez. "There's a 90% chance he's not going to be here."
Cho, who lives in Los Angeles, will be celebrating his 64th birthday Saturday. The Korean native runs a large garment import business.
There isn't too much known about Cho. As an owner, he ran Video Ranger, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and then ran in the Belmont in 1990. As a sire, Video Ranger, sired Cho's Nationalore, who, as a maiden, ran third behind Favorite Trick in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in 1997 and ran in the next year's Kentucky Derby.
"He doesn't like to be in the public eye," Martinez said. "He's a very shy man. He likes to do his work, but he doesn't like too much publicity."
The Cho stable, which comprises anywhere from eight to 12 horses, is based at Hollywood Park.
As a trainer, Cho has a lifetime winning percentage of 7% with 53 career wins from 764 starters. His runners have earned more than $2.3 million. He's yet to send out a stakes winner in 50 tries and 26 graded attempts. For the year, however, he's sent out two winners from six starters -- a 33% win clip.
The 64-year-old Martinez, has worked for Cho for some 20 years. This is his first trip to New York.
"I like the track here," he said. "I'm amazed with Belmont Park. Everything is so neat, and the people are very nice. I'm surprised."
With just the one horse, Martinez and Ayala have some time on their hands. They might wander into the city for some sightseeing.
"If it doesn't rain, I'd like to go into the city," Martinez said. "I've never seen New York. I'd like to take some pictures."