Equipped with a new set of stainless steel wires to hold together a small quarter crack in his left front hoof, Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown galloped May 31 as he continues to prepare for the 140th edition of the $1-million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 7.
According to owner Michael Iavarone, Big Brown is scheduled to have an acrylic and fiberglass patch placed on his hoof June 2, and will breeze the following morning.
“We have time, and we want to keep the patch off as long as possible to let the crack heal naturally,” Iavarone said.
Added trainer Rich Dutrow Jr.: “The final call will be up to Ian.”
Hoof specialist Ian McKinlay, who has been monitoring the five-eighths inch-long crack since last week, said things looked “beautiful.”
“The little spot up top (on the coronet band) just keeps getting harder and harder,” said McKinlay. “By Monday it should be in fabulous shape. There’s no sense in taking any chances. The only thing that can go wrong is rushing. If we don’t rush it, we’re good.”
The winner of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) could face as many as nine opponents in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. According to New York Racing Association stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, definite starters include Anak Nakal, Casino Drive, Denis of Cork, Icabad Crane, Macho Again, Tale of Ekati and Tomcito.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who last year saddled Rags to Riches to victory in the Belmont, said Ready’s Echo, who was a closing third to Casino Drive in the May 10 Peter Pan (gr. II), will breeze June 1, after which a decision will be made on whether to start the son of More Than Ready in the race.
“We thought his Peter Pan was a good race,” said Pletcher. “He seems to be an improving horse, so we decided to take a shot.”
Pletcher, who said a rider had not yet been determined, added it was “unlikely” that Behindatthebar would run.
Byrnes said that the Nick Zito-trained Da’Tara, who worked four furlongs over the training track May 29 at Saratoga in 49.67 seconds, was also a possibility for the race, which would bring the field to 10. A Hall of Famer, Zito also trains Anak Nakal.
Da’Tara, a Tiznow colt owned by Robert V. LaPenta, was the pacesetter in the Barbaro Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day, reluctantly giving way to Roman Emperor in the final strides of the 1 1/16-mile race.
“Everything is fine with both horses,” Zito said. “Anak Nakal will work on Monday. He will blow out a little bit and ship down on Wednesday. Da’Tara is getting better. One thing is, when these things are good, you’ve got to run them. He was good in the Barbaro on Preakness Day, and he was a lot better than a lot of the horses in the Preakness. He’s still a longshot. But he’s good and he’s a terrific horse.”
Zito said he would name riders in the next day or so, adding: “Somebody good will be on their backs.”
Of the 11 Triple Crown winners, none has faced more than seven rivals in the Belmont Stakes.
Seattle Slew (1977) and Citation (1948) had seven challengers; Assault (1946) and War Admiral (1937) took on six; Affirmed (1978), Secretariat (1973), and Omaha (1935) faced four others; Whirlaway (1941) and Gallant Fox (1930) had three rivals, and Count Fleet (1943) and Sir Barton (1919) defeated two.
Although Racecar Rhapsody worked five furlongs at Churchill Downs in 1:01.60, trainer Ken McPeek confirmed that the he would not run in the Belmont Stakes.