The colt and his stablemates – Spark Candle and Champagne Squall – walk through most of the barn area for some 45 minutes before going to the track for either jogging or galloping. Following their exercise regimen, they walk about 30 more minutes before returning to Barn 17.
“They feel comfortable and safe” if their routines are not disrupted, even when in another setting, said Nobutaka Tada, who represents Japanese owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto and trainer Kazuo Fujisawa. The expected field consists of Anak Nakal, Big Brown, Casino Drive, Denis of Cork, Icabad Crane, Macho Again, Ready’s Echo, and Tale of Ekati.
Spark Candle had been pointed toward the Belmont but was entered in the June 6 Hill Prince Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park. “He has ability and we thought we would let him try (the Hill Prince),” said Tada. “There is just one race (Belmont Stakes) and just one winner.”
While Spark Candle would have provided some early speed to test Big Brown, Tada said Casino Drive is multi-dimensional and not reliant upon a face early pace. “If there is no pace, he can go. If there is pace, he can settle,” the advisor said. “He is suitable to any pace.”
Tada said the Casino Drive team is not focusing on beating just Big Brown but realizes that to win the Belmont they have to beat all the other horses in the field. “There are other good horses in the race. We are fighting all of them, not just Big Brown.”
Tada said he has a great deal of respect for Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown’s jockey. In fact, Tada served as agent for Desormeaux when the rider made annual forays to Japan to ride, beginning in 2001. He said that is one reason he acquired the jockey’s services to ride Casino Drive when he won the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) in the colt’s second career start and only U.S. effort to date.
Another practice in Japan that will be followed with Casino Drive is the lack of medications on Belmont Day. Tada said Casino Drive would not be administered steroids or bleeder medication. He said there were no plans to administer Butazolidin either, although he left open the window for that to change, depending upon the horse. He said the medications, widely used in the U.S., are not used in Japan.
Casino Drive, who will be making his third career start in the Belmont, is a half-brother to the last two Belmont winners—Jazil (2006) and Rags to Riches (2007).