Bluegrass Cat Breezes for Belmont Stakes

(from Belmont Park notes)
Bluegrass Cat, the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) runner up to Barbaro, breezed five furlongs over Belmont's main track Sunday morning in 1:00.30.

Under exercise rider Eddie King, Bluegrass Cat, one of the favorites for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on June10, turned in the sixth fastest of 28 works at the distance.

As of Sunday morning, Belmont probables, in addition to Bluegrass Cat, included Sunriver, Bob and John, Deputy Glitters, Hemingway's Key, Jazil, Oh So Awesome, Sacred Light, Steppenwolfer and Platinum Couple. Wilentz and High Finance are possible, too.

Pletcher was pleased with Bluegrass Cat's workout.

"He worked really well," said Pletcher, who also plans on running recent Peter Pan (gr. II) winner Sunriver in the Belmont Stakes. "The defections of Barbaro and Bernardini have certainly changed the complexion of the race ... we're very optimistic."

Bluegrass Cat, a bay Storm Cat colt, was one of the nation's leading juveniles of 2005 after racking up stakes wins in the Nashua (gr. III) and Remsen (gr. II). Although he won his seasonal debut in the Feb. 18 Sam Davis, Bluegrass Cat faltered in his final two pre-Kentucky Derby races, losing the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) at odds of 2-5 and finishing fourth as the favorite in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I). The colt rebounded nicely in the Kentucky Derby, however.

"He ran big," Pletcher said. "He was like a lot of horses that didn't seem to take to the Keeneland track and improved at Churchill. A little improvement off of the Derby and we'll be tough."

Sunriver, a full brother to the multiple Eclipse Award-winning Ashado, is scheduled to work next Sunday. Jockey Rafael Bejarano has the mount aboard Sunriver in the Belmont Stakes.

Jockey John Velazquez is expected to reunite with Bluegrass Cat for the Belmont Stakes. He was on the backstretch Sunday working horses for Pletcher. Velazquez has not ridden in a race since April 20, having suffered a fractured shoulder blade and cracked rib in a spill at Keeneland. Velazquez has been the nation's champion jockey in both 2004 and 2005.

"I feel good. I'm just trying to get fit," Velazquez said. "I'm doing better than I thought I'd be doing at this point. I just need to get a little more strength in my back and we'll go from there. I was jogging and doing physical therapy before I started getting on the horses again. It's good to be back."

Velazquez hopes to ride during the week preceding the Belmont

Trainer David Hofmans will put his perfect Belmont Stakes record on the line when he saddles Amerman Racing Stables' Sacred Light. The Holy Bull colt worked seven furlongs in 1:28, handily, beneath jockey Victor Espinoza Sunday at Hollywood Park. Hofmans won with his only Belmont starter, Touch Gold, in 1997, foiling the Triple Crown bid of Silver Charm.

"He went very nice," Hofmans said of the work. "He was in company early and drew away from that horse by about five or six lengths. Victor said he was very happy."

Espinoza will ride Sacred Light for the first time in the Belmont. His previous Belmont experience includes a runner-up finish with A P Valentine in 2001 and an eighth with favorite and Triple Crown hopeful War Emblem in 2002.

"Our plan is to ship him to New York on Tuesday and work him over the track there Sunday," Hofmans said. "Touch Gold ran in the Preakness, but we gave him a good seven-eighths work before the Belmont over the track. I remember talking to Woody Stephens about the importance of getting a work over the track before the Belmont that year."

Stephens trained five straight Belmont winners from 1982 to 1986.

Sacred Light would be winless if it weren't for a forward placement via disqualification last August in a Del Mar maiden race. The colt ran credible races against top California 3-year-olds such as Bob and John and Brother Derek. Sacred Light comes off a runner-up finish in a 1 1/16-mile Churchill allowance race behind last year's Belmont third-place finisher Nolan's Cat

"He's a true distance horse," Hofmans said. "When Rafael Bejarano got off him after his last race, he said the horse probably would have won if the race were another eighth of a mile."

Other than the Santa Anita Derby when he was a distant fourth behind Brother Derek, Sacred Light has hit the board in all his other starts this year.

"The Santa Anita Derby was just a mess," Hofmans said. "He fell on his nose and it was pretty much over after that."

Hofmans said he will be in New York to supervise the work next week.