Shackleford working at Belmont June 1, 2011

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Shackleford working at Belmont June 1, 2011
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Rick Samuels

Busy Weekend Planned for Belmont Contenders

Many of the contenders for the Belmont Stakes plan to work this weekend or Monday.

The work tab at Belmont Park will be busy the weekend of June 4 as some contenders for the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) will be putting in their final workouts.

Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom  is scheduled to arrive from the training center at Fair Hill, Md., June 5, and will have his final work for the Belmont teh following day. Trainer Graham Motion will be on hand for the breeze, which is scheduled on the main track after the renovation break at 8:45 a.m. EDT.

The Leroidesanimeaux colt will be stabled in the barn of trainer David Donk, a longtime friend of Motion.

Meanwhile, Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Shackleford , who shipped in to Belmont on Memorial Day, will breeze after the break the morning of June 4, with exercise rider Tammy Fox aboard. Trainer Dale Romans said a final decision on a Belmont start would likely be made June 5, but is optimistic the colt will run in the 1 1/2-mile race.

Should the Forestry colt start it would mark the first time since 2005 that the Kentucky Derby winner and the Preakness winner faced off in the Belmont. That year Preakness winner Afleet Alex  won the Belmont, with Derby winner Giacomo finishing seventh.

Derby runner-up Nehro arrived at trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn early the morning of June 3 after an overnight van ride from Churchill Downs. The colt, who sat out the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), will likely breeze June 6.

“He came in around 5 o’clock this morning, (and) he shipped in well,” said Toby Sheets, Asmussen’s New York assistant. “He’s supposed to have an easy breeze on Monday and train lightly the next two days. He’ll go to the track around 6:30, 6:45, in the second set.”

Mucho Macho Man , third in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness, will have his final work for the Belmont June 5 on the main track after the break, trainer Kathy Ritvo said. New jockey Ramon Dominguez will be aboard for the move.

“Everything is going good,” Ritvo said. “He jogged two miles on the main track today, stood in the gate and backed out. I figure Sunday will be good timing.”

After his morning gallop, the leggy chestnut colt, who stands 17.1 hands tall, got his customary bath – in warm water. “He hates cold water,” Ritvo said. “If you try to give him a bath in cold water, he starts stamping his feet and lets you know he doesn’t like it one bit.”

Prime Cut, who finished third in the Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont May 14, remains under consideration for the Belmont with a final decision expected June 4, trainer Neil Howard said.

“We’re still possible,” Howard said from Churchill, where Prime Cut worked five furlongs in 1:03 3/5 Memorial Day. “(Owner Donald Adam), the farm manager, and I will have a conversation and we’ll probably make a decision then.”

Howard said though the distance is a question mark for all the starters, he believes the Bernsteincolt’s stamina and pedigree are a plus.

“He ran very well in an important prep race for the Belmont, the Peter Pan, so he has a good race over the track,” the trainer said. "But in a race like the Belmont, you don’t want to just say, ‘Yee-hah, let’s go!’ You’ve got the two obvious horses in Animal Kingdom and Shackleford, both of whom still look strong to me, and Nehro as well.”

Brilliant Speed, who was seventh in the Derby, continues to please trainer Tom Albertrani as he prepares for the Belmont. The Dynaformer colt breezed five furlongs in 1:03.11 June 1 and will have another work the week of the Belmont, Albertrani said.

“I feel as if he’s going into this race the same way he went into the Derby,” he said. “He’s doing everything you want to see a horse do going into the race.”

The Live Oak Plantation colt, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, is 1-2-0 from four starts as a 3-year-old.

Mike Repole’s Stay Thirsty , the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) winner who later finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby, is slated to breeze five furlongs at Belmont Park June 5 as he progresses towards a start in the Belmont.

“The horse is doing well and had a very good breeze (six furlongs in 1:12.12 May 29),” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Everything has gone smoothly since the Derby. I hope he steps up with a big performance. We’re hoping his pedigree kicks in at the quarter pole.”

No final determination has been made on a rider.

George and Lori Hall’s Ruler On Ice, third in the Sunland Derby (gr. III) and second in the Federico Tesio Stakes, will breeze June 4 or June 5 at Monmouth Park in what will be his final workout in the lead-up to the June 11 Belmont Stakes.

“He’s doing well,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “We’re not sure which day he’ll breeze at the moment.”

Breen said he hasn’t decided when he’ll ship to Belmont Park, but would like to keep the Roman Ruler colt at Monmouth Park for as long as possible. “We’re playing it by ear,” Breen said. “He likes Monmouth Park, and we want to keep him happy.”