With the June 9 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) fast approaching, trainers of the expected contenders were making plans for travel and pre-race works May 31.
Larry Jones will ship Hard Spun to Belmont Park from Delaware Park June 2 and will ready the son of Danzig for a bid at the last and longest leg of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.
“We figure to leave here around 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning,” Jones said. “Right now, I have a work planned for him up there Monday morning (June 4). He usually goes out around 8:30 a.m. or so, right after the renovation break.”
Second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) to Street Sense and third behind Curlin and Street Sense in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Hard Spun looks for a Belmont victory to keep him in the 3-year-old championship mix as summer looms.
Meanwhile, trainer Steve Asmussen said Preakness winner Curlin will ship to Belmont Park June 5. Asmussen is confident that the son of Smart Strike will find an appreciative audience when he comes to New York.
“He’s a very popular horse,” the trainer said. “He really grabs your attention. There’s a lot of him and he has a lot of charisma. Hopefully, we’ll keep building on that.”
Earlier May 31, trainer Carl Nafzger announced that Street Sense would pass on the Belmont Stakes in favor of the “Mid-Summer Derby” – the Aug. 25 Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.
Asmussen joined Jones on an NTRA conference telephone call this afternoon and was asked about the defection of Street Sense.
“That’s Mr. Nafzger’s s decision and I’m sure he’s doing what was right by the horse,” Asmussen said. “I as fully prepared to run against him and Hard Spun. With Street Sense being as good a horse as he is, Belmont Park would have been the place to meet him.”
Trainer Greg Fox said Slew's Tizzy, currently the only prospective Belmont starter who did not make a start in either the Derby or Preakness, will also ship to the New York track June 5. Slew's Tizzy last won the May 12 Lone Star Derby (gr. III).
“He might have a work Saturday morning,” Fox said. When asked about Street Sense’s absence, he remarked: “Carl Nafzger has to be commended; he made a decision that was best for the horse and that should be applauded. But if he’d said he was going to run, it wouldn’t have changed our stance. We were going to run regardless.”
Imawildandcrazyguy and Tiago (fourth and seventh in the Derby, respectively) both arrived in New York this week, with June 3 works planned for the two.
Bill Kaplan, trainer of Imwildandcrazyguy, said the colt shipped safely to New York May 30.
“He’s already at Belmont," Kaplan said. “The trip went very well, he flew FedEx and we put a stamp on forehead and sent him on his way. He’ll probably work there Sunday. We’ve been looking at the Belmont as far back as January; he needs the mile and a half.”
John Sheriffs, trainer of Tiago, said his colt also shipped in May 30.
“He’s settling in very well,” Sheriffs said. “He’ll work Sunday.”
As of May 31, no other prospective Belmont starters had been announced, though trainer Todd Pletcher had yet to make a decision on sending Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Rags to Riches and stablemate Circular Quay, sixth in the Derby, to the 1 1/2-mile race. Both will work June 5, with an official announcement from Pletcher expected the following day.