(From Belmont Park)
Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Tale of Ekati worked six furlongs in 1:11.99, breezing, on the muddy main track at Belmont Park June 1. After two works that were less than what trainer Barclay Tagg had hoped for, Tale of Ekati finally got the move he needed to set him up for a return match against Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown in the $1-million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 7.
Tagg, who five years ago guided New York-bred Funny Cide to victories in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), was less than happy with Tale of Ekati’s bullet half-mile of :46 4/5 May 20 and completely disgusted with the colt’s six-furlong move of 1:18.97 May 26 under jockey Eibar Coa.
“This was the move I was hoping for last week,” Tagg said. “Now, you can only hope that it wasn’t too much for him. Everything seems to be going well now, and we’re back on schedule.”
In the Wood, Tale of Ekati stalked 2007 juvenile champion War Pass and then powered to the victory in the lane. In the Kentucky Derby, Tale of Ekati finished fourth, beaten 11 lengths by Big Brown after a troubled trip.
“The Belmont is a tough race, and Big Brown is a tough horse,” Tagg said. “But if you’ve got a horse that is doing well, you have to take a chance. We’re back on schedule today, and this horse loves Belmont Park (2-for-2). I hope he runs his race.”
Coa will maintain the mount for the Belmont Stakes.
Tomcito, who was third to Big Brown in the Florida Derby (gr. I) and seventh to Casino Drive in the Peter Pan (gr. II), will not start in the Belmont Stakes, according to trainer Dante Zanelli.
Zanelli said the son of Street Cry was suffering from a “reaction” but did not specify what caused it. “It’s very depressing,” he said.
Big Brown went out for his usual gallop June 1 around the Belmont Park oval under exercise rider Michelle Nevin, drawing applause from the “Breakfast at Belmont” crowd as he passed by the grandstand.
“He was very cheeky,” reported Nevin. “He had a basic gallop again today. He felt good. He knows something is going on because all these people are around him all the time, clapping for him in the grandstand.”
Nevin confirmed that Big Brown will have an acrylic and fiberglass patch placed on the small quarter-crack on his left front foot June 2, and that he is scheduled to breeze the following morning.
Ready’s Echo worked five furlongs over the fast training track June 1 in 1:00.91 and is on target for the Belmont, said trainer Todd Pletcher.
“We’re very happy with the way he went,” said Pletcher, who won last year’s Belmont with Rags to Riches, the first filly to win the race in 102 years.
Pletcher said a rider had not yet been determined for the son of More Than Ready , which brings a record of one victory, two seconds, and one third from four starts to the race.
“We got him in 1:10 and 3,” joked Nobutaka Tada, spokesperson for owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto and trainer Kazuo Fujisawa. “No, I am sure it was much slower and probably not what Americans are used to. But we are very happy with the way Casino Drive is coming along and how he is stretching out. We look forward to the Belmont Stakes.”
Casino Drive is a son of Mineshaft (by A.P. Indy) and the Deputy Minister mare Better Than Honour, making him a half-brother to 2006 Belmont Stakes winner Jazil (by Seeking the Gold) and a half-brother to 2007 Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches (by 1992 Horse of the Year and Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy).
Since his arrival here April 30 – he won the grade II, nine-furlong Peter Pan on May 10 by 5 3/4 lengths in a professional 1:47 4/5 -- Casino Drive has trained in a different manner than other horses in this country. Every day he walks vigorously through the barn area for about an hour, then goes to the track, and then walks for another hour.
“We really try to pick his feet up,” Tada said. “We want him to be ready, so when he turns it on, he will be strong.”
Spark Candle, who was under consideration for the Belmont Stakes, will be entered in the $100,000 Hill Prince (gr. IIIT) June 6 for 3-year-olds at a mile. Edgar Prado, who will ride Casino Drive in the Belmont Stakes, has the mount on Spark Candle.