Shivananda Racing’s Trinniberg will cut back to a more favorable distance June 9 in the $400,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park, but he could have his hands full given the overall quality of the 10-horse field.
The seven-furlong stakes also attracted The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial (gr. III) winner Hierro; Il Villano, who won the Chick Lang Stakes impressively in his last start; and grade I winner Currency Swap, who won the You And I Stakes at seven furlongs at Belmont in his last start.
The Woody Stephens is the ninth race on a 13-race program that features the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Trinniberg, trained by Bisnath Parboo, won back-to-back seven-furlong stakes—the Swale and Bay Shore (both gr. III)—before a 17th-place finish in the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The Teuflesberg colt tracked front-running Bodemeister for more than six furlongs before fading in the Derby.
“I’m very happy to see him go back to the (seven-furlong) distance,” Parboo told New York Racing Association media officials. “The plan going into the Derby was, when we made it to the quarter pole, if there was no horse left to just ease him up. If he couldn’t finish one-two-three-four, don’t push it. We went into the race hoping he could get the distance, and he could not.
“He came out of the Kentucky Derby even better than he went in, and he’s training really nice.”
Trinniberg, who finished second in the Nashua Stakes (gr. II) last year in his only race at Belmont, has been training sharply at his Calder Casino & Race Course base in Florida. He seems well-spotted from post 6 with Willie Martinez named to ride at 123 pounds.
Stonestreet Stables’ Hierro, trained by Steve Asmussen, won the one-mile Derby Trial from off the pace in a solid effort. More importantly, he defeated Paynter, who came back to win an allowance race at Pimlico Race Course and is entered in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
The Hard Spun colt, whose two victories have come at Churchill Downs, finished second in a maiden special weight event last year in his only race at Belmont. Julien Leparoux, who was aboard for his two wins, rides Hierro from post 1 at 123 pounds.
Chuck Russo’s Il Villano, based at Parx Racing with trainer Susan Crowell, used an outside post to his advantage when he sat just off the favored leader in the six-furlong Chick Lang. He took over entering the stretch and powered away to win in 1:10.40 on a fast track. The Pollard's Vision colt had another strong work at Parx June 1 when he went four furlongs in :47 1/5.
In February, Il Villano shipped to Gulfstream Park, where he finished a distant second in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II). Regular rider Jose Flores is named from post 3 at 123 pounds.
Currency Swap, owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, was two-for-two last year with a victory in the grade I Hopeful Stakes. In three starts this year the High Cotton colt has one win, in the You And I.
Currency Swap, trained by Teresa Pompay and to be ridden by Rajiv Maragh from post 9 at 121 pounds, is two-for-two at the Woody Stephens distance. He finished 11th as the favorite in the Illinois Derby (gr. III) at 1 1/8 miles in early April.
“It was great for him, because he really needed something to pick his head up,” Pompay said. “He probably wasn’t quite ready when I ran him in Florida. We were trying to push a little bit because we had a little bit of that Derby fever and he didn’t have the earnings to get in. I probably could have had him a little tighter for that.”
$400,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II, Race 9, 4:43 p.m. EDT), 3 & Up, Seven Furlongs
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Hierro (KY), J R Leparoux, 123, S M Asmussen
2. Hardened Wildcat (KY), J Castellano, 123, C C Brown
3. Il Villano (KY), J L Flores, 123, S L Crowell
4. Brian (FL), M Gutierrez, 117, M A Hennig
5. Bourbon Courage (KY), A R Napravnik, 117, K Gorder
6. Trinniberg (KY), W Martinez, 123, B Parboo
7. Power World (KY), E S Prado, 119, W I Mott
8. Isn't He Clever (KY), J R Velazquez, 123, S M Asmussen
9. Currency Swap (FL), R Maragh, 121, T M Pompay
10. Laurie's Rocket (KY), C S Nakatani, 119, D Stewart