Trainer Dallas Stewart could not have been more pleased with the appearance of $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) contender Tale of Verve May 24, as he watched the Xpressbet.com Preakness Stakes (gr. I) runner-up grazing outside the barn following a 1 1/2-mile gallop around Belmont Park's main oval.
"He had a good long gallop all the way around the track yesterday and today under (exercise rider and apprentice jockey) Cortez Walker, who's from Hattiesburg, Miss.," said Stewart, who arrived in New York late May 23 to supervise the rest of Tale of Verve's Belmont preparations, which will include a final breeze either May 28, May 29, or May 30. "The horse looks great, his appetite is great—he had five scoops last night. He's doing really well. I'm pleased with the way he's handling things up here."
Tale of Verve was an also-eligible for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but failed to draw into the race. He entered the Preakness off a maiden win at Keeneland and then closed with an impressive late kick to finish second to American Pharoah at 28-1 odds.
"When we had him down in New Orleans, I felt the races were too short for him," Stewart said of Charles Fipke's homebred son of Tale of Ekati . "Finally he got one (race at) 1 1/16 miles and he ran second. He gave me the feeling he's got a chance to be a good horse and that's the way I approached it. When he won at Keeneland (against older horses) going 1 3/16 (miles), I thought, 'Man, he's not even blowing at all. He can handle this.' He's got a lot of physical ability."
Tale of Verve may have only a maiden victory on his résumé, but has finished off the board only once in seven career starts.
"You think how many foals were born his year, and of those, there are only nine shots to be 1-2-3 in the classics, and he's one of them," Stewart said. "We want to get the win for him. With his breeding, the way he eats, (and) the way he handles himself, I think he can do it."