Medal Count was one of the last Belmont Stakes (gr. I) participant to arrive in New York, but his Spendthrift Farm connections hope he is the first to the wire in the June 7 classic.
Trainer Dale Romans sent Medal Count from his Churchill Downs headquarters to Belmont Park June 5, and the son of Dynaformer took his first spin around the giant Belmont Park oval the morning of June 6, jogging around the main track at about 9 a.m. EDT.
Following his eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), all options were on the table for Medal Count, who has won on dirt and turf and ran a very good second over Polytrack in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland. The July 5 Belmont Derby (gr. IT), formerly the Jamaica, was on the radar at $1.25 million going 10 grassy furlongs, but Medal Count continued to train so well over the Churchill dirt that Romans moved the Belmont Stakes to the top of the itinerary.
"We think he can be a very good turf horse, but looking at an eventual stud career, we think dirt is going to give him more value," said Spendthrift president Ned Toffey. "He seems to be thriving in the midst of a rigorous campaign and his attitude is great, so here we are and we're happy to be here."
Medal Count raced mid-pack in the Derby and was making a move in the stretch when Danza came out suddenly and stopped his momentum. Although Medal Count was not getting to winner California Chrome , he conceivably could have achieved a minor placing in the race.
On May 24 at Churchill the bay colt fired a bullet five furlongs in :59 2/5 and came back May 31 with a six-furlong bullet move in 1:10 3/5. He has shown the ability to stalk and also lay further off the pace, although the Belmont usually requires a horse to be within a few lengths of the lead turning for home to achieve success.
B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift went to $360,000 to purchase Medal Count at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale. He is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Brisquette.
"We always look for horses that will fit in our stallion barn if they garner enough success on the track," Toffey said. "Dynaformer obviously holds tremendous appeal. We have Temple City, also by Dynaformer, who has been well-received."
Bred by Stonestreeet Thoroughbred Holdings, Medal Count won the off-the-turf Transylvania Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland before his runner-up Blue Grass run. He broke his maiden on the dirt at Ellis Park and dead-heated for a victory in an optional claiming contest on the grass at Gulfstream Park. If he runs well in the Belmont, his connections are apt to keep Medal Count on dirt in the traditional 3-year-old races at Saratoga Race Course this summer. But the grass is an option should they decide to go that way.
"You can stand a turf horse today; that used to be taboo," Toffey noted. "So if this horse does prove a better runner on turf, he will still have good value at stud. The race at Gulfstream he closed beautifully into a slow pace and was very impressive. And being a Dynaformer, you naturally take a look at the turf. But he's a horse that can run on anything. He's handled it all."
Medal Count has won three of eight starts and $261,600 to date. He drew the rail for the Belmont and figures to draft in behind speedy California Chrome, who is his next-gate neighbor in the race.
With its dual champion Beholder running in the Ogden Phipps Stakes (gr. I) on the Belmont undercard, it could be a huge day for Spendthrift. But whatever the Belmont result, Medal Count's diversity makes him a valuable commodity going into the second half of the season.