Just before 6:30 a.m., a flurry of excitement hits the gap near Union Avenue. Accompanied by Todd Pletcher on his chestnut pony, Rags to Riches walks onto the track. She cranes her neck to the right, curious, ears fixed radar-like on the morning activity. Exercise rider Valerie Buck is in the saddle for the second time – she rode the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner yesterday and said it was amazing.
“I’ve been galloping horses for 20 years and I was so nervous getting on her,” Buck said. “But once I got on her I was fine. She felt really, really good. When she broke away from the pony yesterday she was a little fresh, and I could just feel the power. I galloped for Lukas for about 10 years and she reminds me of Tactical Cat, the power she has. She’s feeling good, I know she’s really interested in what’s going on out here.”
This morning, Pletcher and the filly head down the backside. Her jog is girly, and she flips her tail with each flirty step – but once they reach the chute and he turns to release her, the power comes into play. Snorting, she bows her neck and strikes out alternating forefeet, gobbling up ground with her far-reaching stride. Photographers scramble to catch a shot as she gallops on by.