Some trainers who are likely to have horses compete in this year's Belmont Stakes on June 7 are criticizing a decision by the New York Racing Association to have all entrants in the classic stabled in a single barn the day before the race.
According to a Thursday release from NYRA, all horses entered in the June 7 Belmont must be stabled in barn 5, the Belmont Stakes barn, no later than 3 p.m. on Friday, June 6. Horses shipping in for the Belmont after 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4, must be stabled in the Belmont Stakes barn and horses shipping in to Belmont prior to that time can ship to an alternate barn if the trainer has assigned stalls for the meet and then relocate to the Belmont Stakes barn by 3 p.m. Friday.
"It is much more convenient for the connections of the horses and will allow for greater security for the horses entered in our signature race," NYRA President and COO Terry Meyocks said of the decision to have a Belmont Stakes barn.
"I think it's a joke," said Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who trains Kentucky Derby favorite Empire Maker. "It is not more convenient, and for security, they could put a security guard at each barn."
Frankel noted that he would need extra night watch personnel for any horses he has in the Belmont Stakes barn, in addition to those who work at his other Belmont barns.
Another Hall of Famer, D. Wayne Lukas, agreed. "This is going to cause an uproar. It takes horses 24 to 36 hours to get used to a new stall. I am all for security and if they want, they can put a security guard in front of each (Belmont horse's) stall. I will even pay for the security."
Don R. Richardson, senior vice president of corporate racing for Churchill Downs, said the track has considered taking similar action for horses entered in the Kentucky Derby but rejected it for logistical reasons. Simply stated, there is insufficient barn space at Churchill to have a barn designated for Kentucky Derby horses.
Although he has never been a licensed trainer, Richardson said his racetrack background led him to the conclusion that is disruptive to relocate horses from their normal surroundings for such a long period prior to a race.
"I think it is a negative," Richardson said. "I never like to take a horse out of its regular surroundings. They go to a special barn a couple of hours before the Breeders' Cup races, but you don't want to take them out of their environment for a whole day."
While the security concerns of NYRA are legitimate, Richardson said Churchill Downs has never had a problem with its security arrangements that include a guard on each side at opposite ends of barns where Derby horses are stabled. "We have never had a security problem," Richardson said.