Belmont Doings: Born for the Belmont

Belmont Doings: Born for the Belmont
Photo: Rick Samuels
Casino Drive leads his stablemates to the track at Belmont Park.
Can a son of Boundary win the Belmont Stakes (gr. I)? Many people had their doubts that a Boundary could win at 1 1/4 miles, but Big Brown keeps defying the odds and eliminating one question mark after another. Still, this one question will persist, even though Big Brown apparently is using the stamina blood that is inbred in him through Damascus, Round Table, and Northern Dancer, and the extraordinary heart passed on to him by his broodmare sire Nureyev.

But if there is one horse who was born for the Belmont Stakes it is Casino Drive. Everyone is well aware by now that his dam, Better Than Honour, has produced the last two Belmont winners, Jazil and Rags to Riches. But there is more to Casino Drive’s pedigree than just his dam.

In his sire’s family are Belmont Stakes winners A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew, and Secretariat. Seattle Slew sired Belmont winners Swale and A.P. Indy and is the broodmare sire of Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid  ; Secretariat sired Belmont winner Risen Star and is the broodmare sire of A.P. Indy. Also in the sire’s family is Mr. Prospector, sire of Belmont winner Conquistador Cielo.

In addition to Better Than Honour, Casino Drive’s female family includes Deputy Minister, sire of Belmont winner Touch Gold and broodmare sire of Belmont winner Sarava; and Vice Regent, broodmare sire of Belmont winner Victory Gallop. So, Casino Drive’s first four generations alone are responsible for 12 Belmont Stakes winners.

On Sunday, Casino Drive went out for another of his non-work works. The clockers caught the colt going five furlongs in 1:10 3/5, which was actually two seconds faster than last week’s move. This time, however, Casino Drive sat well behind his two workmates, with Champagne Squall still leading by five to six lengths approaching the quarter pole, with Spark Candle some seven to eight lengths in front of Casino Drive. Champagne Squall came very wide, as did Spark Candle, allowing Casino Drive to close in from the inside. In a flash he was alongside the pair just after turning for home and finished a length and a half in front at the wire, while remaining on his left lead throughout.

The trio was still going at a good clip an eighth past the wire and continued to gallop out until they hit the backstretch at about the mile pole. Casino Drive was clocked from the eighth pole to an eighth past the wire in about :23. Racing manager Nobutaka Tada says this is their normal style of training back home, and it was exactly what trainer Kazuo Fujisawa was looking for. As usual, the three colts walked for about 45 minutes through the backstretch and in the paddock before heading to the track. They walked for about another 40 minutes following the move.

On Monday, they were out again for their usual walk, followed by an easy jog around the track along the outside rail.

Also on Monday, Big Brown had a solid gallop, wearing his customary bell boots that he’s trained in since suffering his quarter crack. The son of Boundary could not be looking any better physically. He’s held his flesh remarkably well and his coat is resplendent. Trainer Rick Dutrow said the colt will breeze Tuesday, walk Wednesday, jog Thursday, gallop Friday, and walk on Saturday.

In other pedigrees of interest, Icabad Crane’s fourth dam is the champion filly Tempted, a granddaughter of Hyperion who won the Alabama and Maskette at 3 and was champion older mare at 4, winning the Beldame, Diana, and Ladies Handicap. At 5, she scored repeat victories in the Diana and Maskette. Tempted is a half sister to Smart, who set a track record in the 1 1/2-mile Manhattan Handicap and also captured the Massachusetts Handicap twice. Also from this great Christiana family are Alabama winner Broom Dance, two-time Pacific Classic (gr. I) winner Skimming, multiple stakes winner Rutherienne, and major stakes winners End Sweep, Bedside Promise, Enchanted Native, Forest Gazelle, and Skimble.

In addition, Icabad Crane’s first four generations on his sire’s (Jump Start) side are responsible for nine Belmont Stakes winners.

Turning to Ready’s Echo, it is worth noting that although his sire, More Than Ready  , has been more of a speed influence, More Than Ready’s broodmare sire, Woodman, sired Belmont winner Hansel, and Woodman’s broodmare sire is the major classic influence Buckpasser. On his female side, his second dam is by Spectacular Bid and his fourth dam is the brilliant French filly Madelia, winner of the French Oaks and French One Thousand Guineas, whom her trainer Angel Penna said may have had more raw talent than any horse he’s ever trained, and that includes the great Allez France, Waya, classic winner Flying Water, and English and French Oaks winner Pawneese, who beat the boys in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Ready’s Echo, like Big Brown, has Nureyev’s exceptional heart, according to genetics expert Marianna Haun, who told us about Big Brown before the Kentucky Derby. Ready’s Echo inherits it through Nureyev’s daughter Miesque, whose dam, Pasadoble, is by Prove Out, the son of Graustark who upset Secretariat in the Woodward Stakes, running the second-fastest mile and a half ever at Belmont, and on a sloppy track.

On Sunday, Ready’s Echo breezed five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 on the training track much to the delight of trainer Todd Pletcher.

If you’re looking for racing’s last Triple Crown winner Affirmed in someone’s pedigree, Denis of Cork’s sire is Harlan's Holiday, whose broodmare sire is Affirmed.

Also on the track for a work Sunday was Tale of Ekati, who had worked a half mile too fast two works back and six furlongs way too slow last week. This time, he nailed it perfectly, going six furlongs in 1:11 4/5, coming home his last quarter in :24 2/5. “That’s what he was supposed to do last time,” said trainer Barclay Tagg.

If Da’ Tara runs in the Belmont, Lock and Load LaPenta, who seems to always have a gun ready to fire, will be represented in his 12th stakes race this year, 11 of them graded. Robert LaPenta and trainer Nick Zito have sent out five 3-year-olds – War Pass, Cool Coal Man, Stevil, Da’ Tara, and Coal Play – to win the Fountain of Youth (gr. II), finish second in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and Barbaro Stakes, fourth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), and fifth in the Preakness (gr. I) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II). Coal Play recently won a mile and 70-yard prep for the Long Branch Stakes (gr. III) and Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth by 9 1/4 lengths. LaPenta finished second in the 2005 Belmont with Andromeda's Hero.


A most interesting visitor to Belmont Sunday morning was noted TV interviewer Charlie Rose, who seemed to enjoy watching Big Brown stare down his cameras outside his barn.

“I’ve been to Belmont before, but not for a while,” Rose said. “I love the characters. The whole personality of the racetrack is so interesting. And there are lots of stories this year. I’d love to have a camera out here and have people just talking casually. I could really capture this place. I do pieces for “60 Minutes” and once did a piece about the racetrack. I’m an early morning person; I love the early morning, and I thought it would be great to come out here.”


Apologies to the “Morning Joe” show, but in the “News you can’t use” department, racing’s parallel universes have two stories unfolding at the same time. Most of the world is familiar with Big Brown’s escapades and his upcoming attempt to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner. But thousands of miles away there is another unbeaten colt who, like Big Brown, has made only five career starts. His name, coincidently, is Big Brown Horse, and he is quickly making a name for himself in, of all places, Cyprus.

An Irish-bred son of Shinko Forest, out of the American-bred mare Style Parade, Big Brown Horse was imported to Cyprus after being sold at the Doncaster sales in England for a mere 1,200 pounds.

His latest victory came May 21 four days after Big Brown’s tour-de-force in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
All of his races have been at the Nicosia Race Club, the only racecourse in Cyprus. Unlike IEAH Stables, Big Brown Horse’s owner, Kipros Kiprianou, clocks workouts in the morning and is a successful race tout.
Get valuable insight into the people behind Big Brown's success with the new FREE report from, Big Brown: The Connections.

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