Slew’s Tizzy and Hard Spun, who figure to be the pacesetters in the June 9 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), drew next to each other at the post position draw Wednesday morning at Belmont Park. A field of seven was entered in the final leg of the Triple Crown.
The race scenario changed when Street Sense, who won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), was declared out of the race, after which the filly Rags to Riches was committed to the 1 ½-mile race.
In addition, Timed Squared and Digger did not enter as earlier thought, but C P West, who ran fourth in the Preakness (gr. I), did.
Curlin, who won the Preakness over Street Sense by a head, was installed the 6-5 favorite in the Belmont and will break from the three hole under Robby Albarado.
The Belmont carries a $1-million purse and will be broadcast on ABC as part of a two-hour telecast (5-7 p.m.). The post time is 6:25 EDT.
With seven horses going 12 furlongs, the post position does not figure to be a very important factor. With just Slew’s Tizzy and Hard Spun figuring to show early speed—though Curlin would not be expected to be too far behind—the pace does not figure to be fast.
Steve Asmussen, who trains Curlin (by Smart Strike), was at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning but his assistant, Scott Blasi, was at Belmont with the Preakness winner.
“His run in the Derby really carried over to the Preakness, where he really had to lay his body down against Street Sense,” Blasi said. “He matured by leaps and bounds from the Preakness. He shipped in yesterday around 4 p.m. It was a four hour trip from stall to stall. The addition of the filly makes it a great field and all warrant respect
“We are very happy with his condition and how he trained between races--very settled and relaxed,” Blasi continued. “(He shows) no signs of being nervous or not wanting to train. After the Preakness we gave him three days off and on the fourth day he was happy to go back to the track.”
Curlin is owned by Stonestreet Stables, Padua Stables, George Bolton, and Midnight Cry Stable.
Slew’s Tizzy, to be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, will break from post five while Hard Spun will be to his outside in post six. Rags to Riches, winner of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), will leave from the seven hole.
Imawildandcrazyguy will break from the rail, with Tiago in the two post; Curlin three; C P West four; Slew’s Tizzy; Hard Spun; and Rags to Riches.
“You know that it takes a very good filly to even consider running again the colts in a race like this and we wouldn't be thinking about doing it if we didn't think this filly was extremely good. She is just a good filly,” Todd Pletcher, who trains Rags to Riches for Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, said. “What make a good race horse and you can use just about any adjective you want. Aside from having testicles, she has it all."
Pletcher said many factors went into the decision to run the A.P. Indy filly against colts.
“One of the things I wanted to make sure was that running her was not going to compromise anything we were going to do with her in the future or harm her value. What we are giving up by running a 3-1 shot in the Belmont is running a 1-5 shot in the Mother Goose (gr. I). The Mother Goose is not necessarily going to make history for her or change her value. I think this was more exciting.”
Pletcher is well aware only two fillies have won the Belmont.
“Looking at the list of ones that have (run in recent years), I don't know, maybe with the exception of My Flag, that any of them qualified in the same regard as this filly does. Winning Colors was coming off a tough race in the Preakness and Genuine Risk ran a good race; Silverbulletday was not designed for a mile and a half. So, maybe when you break down the ones that maybe did try it, they might not have been as qualified as this filly--spacing, pedigree, and running style.
“Mr. Tabor made it clear that is was my decision,” Pletcher added. “We talked about it and discussed the pros and cons and he didn't want to influence my decision but once I made the decision he was excited about it. It would not be as big a deal in Europe as it was here. I think this filly is really bred for 1 1/2 miles.”
Pletcher said there is one pace scenario he would not like in the race, since Rags to Riches has come from a bit off the pace in her wins.
“The only pace scenario that would worry me is if Hard Spun got loose on the lead and slow fractions. I think Curlin and Hard Spun are two extremely good colts.”
Larry Jones, who trains Hard Spun for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, said he, too, is trying to figure out the pace.
“I would be wrong if I thought I had this race figured out,” Jones said. “I think it is a fairly even race. He (Hard Spun) has been able to improve each race and we have stepped him up in company each time he has ran. Mr. Porter and I, early on, did not set our sights too high, but the distances kept getting longer and he kept stepping up in class.
The pace in the Belmont will be a little different than it was in the Derby and the Preakness. He's not bred to be fast,” Jones said of the son of Danzig. “His five- and six-furlong speed really surprised me. His stamina is phenomenal. Curlin is just a super horse. The filly has the pedigree to run 1 1/2 miles. She deserves her shot and she got the best post position she could have gotten because being on the outside, she won't have a chance to get pinned in down on the inside by some of the colts.
The man on the inside was happy with his draw.
“I love getting the rail,” said Bill Kaplan, who trains Imawildandcrazyguy for Lewis Pell and Michael Eigner. “Going two turns, the closer to the rail the better. No matter what the strategy, you want to save all the ground you can.” The son of Wild Event will be ridden by Mark Guidry.
“I’m fine with the post,” Slew’s Tizzy’s trainer Greg Fox said. “It’s such a long race, you have to adjust no matter where you start from. I just hope he’s relaxed, like he was in the Lexington (Stakes, gr. II), and getting along well with Rafael.”
C P West, by Came Home, finished fourth in the Preakness after running second in the April 28 Withers Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct.
“He ran a big race in the Preakness,” LaPenta said. “We were very pleased with what he did. (Jockey) Edgar (Prado) was supposed to be tracking Hard Spun and Hard Spun was about four or five lengths in front of us. When Hard Spun went, we went. The interesting thing was, in the stretch, when C P West was running alongside Street Sense, he got smacked in the face by Calvin (Borel) and that’s when he fell back a length.
“I think he grew up in the race,” LaPenta said. “I’m expecting a big performance from him.”
Tiago, who won the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) before rallying to finish seventh in the Derby, returned to California where the half-brother to Derby winner Giacomo has trained the past month.
“He’s been training at Hollywood Park. It’s sort of like a trampoline. They call it ‘Cushion Track,’ ” trainer John Shirreffs said of Hollywood Park’s new synthetic surface.
Shirreffs was here two years ago with Giacomo, who ran seventh behind Afleet Alex. Both Giacomo and Tiago, by Pleasant Tap, were bred and are owned by Jerry and Ann Moss.
“I learned a couple of things from being here two years ago,” he said. “I took Giacomo out late (in the morning) at Belmont. I thought I’d just let him rest in the morning and I’ve found out it’s better to go early and let the horse rest for the whole day instead of splitting it up.
“Also, the paddock here, there aren’t any backs on the stalls, so the crowd is very close and you have to be aware of that when you’re saddling a horse, there could be somebody behind you yelling and screaming at the horse,” he said. “It’s something to be aware of. They have other stalls that are enclosed, but not having known nthat it was going to be such an issue, this time I’ll try to get one of the stalls that is enclosed. Horses aren’t used to having someone behind them while they’re saddling. It’s just a different situation.”
Leslie Deckard, Evan Hammonds, and Lenny Shulman contributed to this report.