He may have been sent off at 19-1 in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland April 16, but Brilliant Speed ’s victory that day didn’t surprise his owner-breeder Charlotte Weber of Live Oak Plantation.
“I never enter a race without thinking that I’m in contention,” she stated in the days before the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I). “And I think we have a good shot in the Belmont.”
Weber wasn’t boasting; just stating her honest opinion. Her Dynaformer colt is proven over all kinds of racing surfaces, and ran a sneaky-good race in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 7, finishing seventh beaten just 5 ½ lengths in his first race on dirt since his first two career starts in 2010.
He is going to be overlooked in the final jewel of the Triple Crown with Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Shackleford getting the lion’s share of the attention. Brilliant Speed has been back at Belmont Park since the Derby, and if he moves forward, he is going to surprise a lot of people in New York, although Weber may not be one of them.
“As a young horse on the farm, I thought Brilliant Speed was one of our nice colts, but you never know,” said Weber. “He’s turned into a nice horse who is developing well, and that’s what it’s all about—having the talent and taking the energy and focus and putting them to work.”
The five-week break between the Derby and Belmont figures to work to the advantage of Brilliant Speed as well.
“It seems to me he wants more distance, so I chose to skip the Preakness,” Weber noted. “I thought he ran really well in the Derby. He got checked at one point in the stretch behind Animal Kingdom or I thought he might have had a better finish than he did. But I wasn’t surprised that he ran well on the dirt.”
Brilliant Speed was well-beaten in those first two dirt tries as a 2-year-old, and improved markedly once moved to the turf, breaking his maiden last December over the Tampa Bay Downs green for trainer Tom Albertrani after finishing third twice over yielding turf at Belmont Park. This season, Brilliant Speed rolled a pair of seconds (one via disqualification of another horse) in two Gulfstream Park turf stakes heading into the Blue Grass.
“He doesn’t have a turf foot and his pedigree doesn’t have turf written all over it,” noted Albertrani.
Weber is no stranger to good horses. Her Live Oak Plantation near Ocala has sent out a steady stream of top runners since she re-committed the operation toward quality some 14 years ago. She raced both Sultry Song and Solar Splendor, millionaire half brothers who won grade I races on the same card in 1992. She was second in the 1982 Kentucky Derby with Laser Light. And she saw her Miesque’s Approval win the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) five years ago en route to being named champion grass male that year.
Weber is a board trustee of the Campbell Soup Company, which was founded by her grandfather. Raised in Bryn Mawr, Pa., in horse country, Weber picked up a love for riding and for horses early on. But her interest in the arts led her in a different direction and she studied art at the University of Paris.
Weber is a member of the board of trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and provided funding for the museum’s Charlotte C. Weber Galleries for the Arts of Ancient China. She is also a major collector of Impressionist artwork.
Her New York ties make races such as the Belmont that much more important to Weber.
“It would absolutely be a dream come true to win the Belmont,” she said. “It has been a complete target for me, as is the Travers (gr. I). Racing in New York should be the epitome of the best racing in the country.”
Weber is hoping Brilliant Speed, a tall horse possessing a long stride, finds the big, sweeping turns of Belmont to his liking.
“I have my fingers crossed,” said Weber, who will be in attendance. “This has been on my list for years, and I think I have a legitimate chance and I’m going to go for it.”