There are easier spots than the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), but trainer Steve Margolis feels his 3-year-old colt Stay Put is in the right one for the 1 1/2-mile classic June 5. Richard, Bertram, and Elaine Klein’s homebred has been in New York for a week now after shipping up from Margolis’ base at Churchill Downs.
In the first race on Kentucky Derby (gr. I) Day at Churchill, the son of Broken Vow rolled to an impressive 1 3/4-length win in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race. It was a nice bounce back for the colt after a pair of fifth-place finishes in both the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby (both gr. II) derailed his chances on the Triple Crown trail.
“We could have stayed home and run in the Northern Dancer Stakes on Stephen Foster (gr. I) Day and been the favorite, but the Kleins have been breeding horses for a long time, and they’ve yet to run one in a classic race,” Margolis said outside Barn 16. “They like way he’s trained, and it is worth taking a shot.”
It’s worth taking a shot in a $1-million classic race that has neither the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) or Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner, even if he’s a 20-1 shot on the morning line.
Margolis knows about taking shots, too. After working in New York for trainers John Veitch, Pat Byrne, Stan Hough and Howie Tesher, he took out his license in 2000 and found himself with a Derby contender in Request for Parole two years later. Beaten by a neck by Perfect Drift as the favorite in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II), Request for Parole ran fifth in the War Emblem’s wire-to-wire Derby win. The next year, Margolis struck gold with 22-1 Cajun Beat in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Santa Anita.
“All horses are different, and you have to train them as individuals,” the 46-year-old Margolis said. “Request for Parole was an easy horse to train, but so is this horse. They both do everything right. There are always obstacles with horses. You have bumps in the road with any horse, but as far as training goes, as you do it more, you become more confident.”
For the Belmont, Margolis is confident and comes to town with a fresh and fit horse, which can be a dangerous combination this time of year at Belmont Park. The colt has one drill over the big oval, a half-mile move May 30.
“You can only train them so much,” Margolis said. “He galloped almost two miles today but he’s been running on a pretty regular basis. He definitely will go long. He’s coming off a win…he’s a three-time winner this year (since Dec. 7) which is good at this time of year. There are other stakes around, but we felt he’s worthy of taking a chance.”
Margolis and the Kleins are also taking a chance with jockey Jamie Theriot. Theriot, a top rider in the Midwest, isn’t exactly a household name in New York.
“You hear the stuff – ‘the jockey never rode here,’ but he knows the horse,” Margolis said. “And that’s more of a factor with us because he has ridden the horse almost every time and the horse does respond for him. I don’t think he’ll be out the backdoor or anything but he could be placed where he needs to be. Stay Put does like to break and then kind of collect himself…and then start picking it up after that.”