Belmont Follow-Up: Travers Next Goal for Jazil

Belmont Follow-Up: Travers Next Goal for Jazil
Photo: Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will point Belmont winner Jazil toward the Travers.
(from Belmont Park notes)
You'd never know Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin slept a whole four hours Saturday night. McLaughlin was bright-eyed and all smiles Sunday morning as he sat in his office and talked about Jazil's victory.

Jazil, a colt by Seeking the Gold, is owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum's Shadwell Stable.

"I guess that expensive wine doesn't give you a hangover," joked McLaughlin, who went out for dinner with Rick Nichols, vice president of Shadwell's North American operations last night. "I don't think my head hit the pillow until one and I woke up at five, so I had to sleep fast."

Even though Sheikh Hamdan did not attend the Belmont Stakes, McLaughlin talked to him this morning.

"He's happy," McLaughlin said. "He was happy with the horse and happy with (jockey Fernando Jara's) ride. It's a great team and a great group of people to win for."

Jazil will be pointed to Saratoga's $1 million Travers (gr. I) on Aug. 26. McLaughlin has never started a horse in the Travers.

"We'll give him a couple of easy weeks," McLaughlin said. "He's never missed a day of training. I'd imagine we'd run in either the Haskell (gr. I) or the Jim Dandy (gr. II) before the Travers."

Saratoga's $500,000 Jim Dandy will be run on July 29. Monmouth Park's Haskell is Aug. 6.

McLaughlin praised Jara's ride aboard Jazil. The 18-year-old rider lost his right iron at the start of the Belmont, but recovered quickly. Down the backstretch he brought Jazil between horses without checking, then took him to the outside for what proved to be the winning move.

"It's great for him," McLaughlin said. "He's a good kid. He's only ridden in five graded stakes his whole life. Yesterday, I went down to see him to see if he was nervous or he wanted to talk, but he was a cool as you could be. It was very nice of the owners leaving him on. Edgar Prado was available for a while, but they wanted to stay with Fernando."

Jara, too, was pumped up this morning. But unlike McLaughlin, Jara got to bed at a reasonable hour.

"I didn't have trouble falling asleep," he said. "I had to get up to work horses this morning. Winning the Belmont Stakes still feels great."

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddled the Belmont's second and third-place finisher in Bluegrass Cat and Sunriver, reported both colts exited the race in good shape. Pletcher still seeks his first victory in a Triple Crown race.

"I still haven't gotten a favorite beat though," laughed Pletcher, whose Bluegrass Cat went off the third wagering choice at odds of nearly 5-1 behind Bob and John and Steppenwolfer. "I thought both horses ran well. The obvious spots for them now are the Jim Dandy, Haskell and Travers.

"We've been very, very fortunate. We've won a lot of big races. I'm not going to sit around and feel neglected or unfortunate because I haven't won a Triple Crown race. Yeah, I'd like for one of those to have my name on it, but it doesn't always happen.

"Bluegrass Cat lost a lot of ground on the first turn. It wasn't (jockey Johnny Velazquez's) fault; Bob and John elected to show speed and stay way out in the middle of the track. I thought Sunriver finished well."

Pletcher and McLaughlin are longtime friends who both worked under Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas at a coinciding time in the early 1990s.

"We worked together for almost three years," said Pletcher, who immediately called McLaughlin after the Belmont Stakes to congratulate him. "Kiaran is a nice person and he's always got a smile on his face. He's very even tempered and he's a good guy. Our families are very close."

Robert and Lawana Low's Steppenwolfer finished fourth in the Belmont Stakes, beaten 4 ¾ lengths. The colt may have been closer at the finish if not for a bad trip in the 1 1/2-mile Classic.

"I'm a little depressed," said trainer Danny Peitz, who thought Steepenwolfer had a huge shot in the Belmont. "I think he ran hard. After the race, I was a little disappointed because he didn't get the trip I was envisioning. You get into a race like this and you think you have a very live horse and you think he's doing great going into the race. A guy like me is not going to get here that often."

Steppenwolfer raced wide most of the way in mid-pack. He got shuffled back on the backstretch and trailed at one point in the race.

Peitz said he still had not seen the head-on replay of the Belmont as of Sunday morning and thought that would shed some light on what happened to Steppenwolfer.

"I don't know if he was waiting because he had no place to go or if he was waiting because he was just waiting," Peitz said of jockey Robby Albarado's ride. "He told me there were horses in front of him and he was waiting for a place to go. I want to say we were sixth about six lengths back and a half-mile later we were last."

Despite finishing farther back than he thought Steppenwolfer would, Peitz was pleased with the colt's effort.

"Did he run hard? Yes," Peitz said. "Did he embarrass me? No."

Travers is the next main goal for Steppenwolfer. In the interim, Peitz said he may try the colt on the turf in the $1 million Virginia Derby July 15.

"My first thought is the Virginia Derby," Peitz said. "The timing of it is pretty good. That would give him five weeks to the Virginia Derby and then six weeks to the Travers.

"Everyone's starting to get the impression that he's another Dollar Bill, running second or third all the time. One of these big races will have our name on it."

Trainer Bob Baffert was not around Sunday morning but John Terranova, whose barn the Baffert horses are based in when they come to New York, said that both Bob and John and Too Much Bling came out of their Saturday efforts in good order. They boarded a van at 8:30 to take them to the airport. Both horses are expected to be back at Baffert's Santa Anita barn Sunday afternoon.

Bob and John set a fast pace in the Belmont and tired to eighth as the lukewarm 9-2 favorite. Too Much Bling ran an admirable second as the 6-5 favorite in the Woody Stephens (gr. II) after dealing with a tough inside post position for the seven-furlong race.

Deputy Glitters, Tom Albertrani's Belmont runner, finished 11th Saturday beating only the eased longshot Double Galore.

"Something wasn't quite right with him," Albertrani said. "He stopped pretty quickly after only going a mile. He looked fine this morning. We think he might have displaced at some point in the race where it cut his air off. We'll see how he trains next week and then make some plans for him."

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