Challengers Ready for Big Brown
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Peter Pan winner Casino Drive is one of a half dozen or so challengers expected to face Big Brown in the Belmont.
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With the chance for a Triple Crown on the line, the field for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 7 at Belmont Park is beginning to take shape. In addition to Crown hopeful Big Brown, six rivals are gearing up at their chance to stop him.

The Belmont racing office is reporting that Peter Pan (gr. II) winner Casino Drive, a half-brother to the past two Belmont winners, Jaziland Rags to Riches, respectively, is set for the 1 ½-mile test.  In addition, Anak Nakal, Denis of Cork, third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Tale of Ekati, fourth in the Derby, and Tomcito are expected to to run in the Belmont Stakes. Preakness Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Macho Again and third-place finisher Icabad Crane are now listed as questionable.

Casino Drive had an easy morning on Belmont Park’s main track May 18, “cantering about five furlongs,” according to Nobutaka Tada, managing director of Globe Equine Management Ltd., and spokesperson for owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto and trainer Kazuo Fujisawa.

The son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft   is out of the Deputy Minister mare, Better Than Honour.

 “Big Brown was amazing yesterday, most impressive,” Tada said. “But the Belmont Stakes is the reason we are here, and Casino Drive loves it here.”

Casino Drive is hoping to join Algerine (1876) and Prince Eugene (1913) and horses that won the Belmont Stakes in only their third career start. Both Algerine and Prince Eugene broke their maidens in the Belmont Stakes.  

Tada said Casino Drive will likely keep galloping and will generally go out around 7 a.m. He will likely breeze sometime in the days before the Belmont Stakes.

 “It will depend on the weather; maybe some days we will go out after the harrowing,” Tada said. ‘We’ll have to see.”

Tada also said that he will know more in a few days as to who will ride Casino Drive in the Belmont Stakes. Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux had the mount for the Peter Pan, but he will be looking for the Triple Crown with Big Brown.

Likely to ride is Yutaka Take, whose father, Kunihiko was known as the “Magician on Turf” in Japan. Take was aboard Casino Drive when he broke his maiden at first asking at Kyoto Feb. 23.

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