They’re not pouring out of the woodwork, but they’re coming -- slowly but surely. Normally, if the winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) defects from the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), it’s going to bring a deluge of newcomers looking to take a shot at the final leg of the Triple Crown.
But since Street Sense dropped out on May 31, only two horses have entered the picture – Digger, a former Maryland-based claimer, and Time Squared, a recent allowance winner at Arlington Park. That’s not to say there won’t be more before entries are drawn Wednesday, June 6.
Not exactly a fair exchange, but such is the world of the Belmont Stakes, a mile and a half race that is not on most trainers’ agendas.
The loss of Street Sense obviously hurts the race a great deal, taking away the showdown angle between Street Sense and Preakness (gr. I) winner Curlin.
Curlin now becomes the headliner, with Hard Spun, second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness, his main competitor. As of Monday, June 4, seven horses are listed as definites for the Belmont –- Curlin, Hard Spun, Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Tiago, Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) and Lone Star Derby (gr. III) winner Slew’s Tizzy, Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Imawildandcrazyguy, Time Squared and Digger.
The last named, who was purchased recently by Lawrence Roman and turned over to trainer Rick Dutrow, is only running because his owner felt that withdrawing Street Sense was not the sporting thing to do, and he has, in some strange way of thinking, decided to make a statement by running his horse, who was beaten at Charles Town in his last start.
Time Squared finished sixth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), but was beaten only three lengths in the freakishly run race, and trainer Patrick Biancone decided to take a shot after Street Sense came out.
Curlin is scheduled to ship to New York from Kentucky on Tuesday, along with Slew’s Tizzy, while Time Squared is not expected to arrive until Friday.
Curlin looks to be a standout in the Belmont, but has crammed a lot into four months of racing. But even if the son of Smart Strike regresses, many feel he still is good enough to win. Most people, in fact, feel he is something special. Hard Spun has had two hard races in the Triple Crown, but he, too, appears to have come out of them in excellent shape. These two will take most of the money at the windows.
Tiago, who won the Santa Anita Derby in only his fourth career start, finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, but did have some traffic problems and galloped out like a wild horse, blowing right on by Street Sense and Hard Spun, indicating he still could have a lot of room for improvement in the Belmont.
Slew’s Tizzy is improving with every start, and although he’s never been farther than 1 1/16 miles, he does everything like a horse who will stay, and he appears to be at his peak. Imawildandcrazyguy is basically a horse who can run all day without getting tired.
Still no word from Todd Pletcher about the status of Rags to Riches and Circular Quay. All Pletcher has said is that he will not run both of them. Rags to Riches has been on course for the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I).