Kentucky Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat, possible contender in competitive Belmont.

Kentucky Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat, possible contender in competitive Belmont.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Lacking Derby, Preakness Winners, Belmont Shaping Up as Competitive Race

Yes, there still is another leg of the Triple Crown to be run. Although the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on June 10 has lost its star appeal with the absence of Barbaro and Bernardini, it is still a classic, and a grueling one at that, and should at least be a competitive race, offering interesting possibilities for bettors.

The door is wide open for yet another star to step into the spotlight and propel himself into the Travers (gr. I) and Haskell (gr. I) picture.

And when any door opens in New York, you can bet several members of Todd Pletcher's platoon will come charging through. Pletcher likely will saddle two, possibly three, horses in the mile and a half "Test of the Champion." He will have the probable favorite in Peter Pan (gr. II) winner Sunriver, who was denied entrance into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) field because of insufficient graded earnings. He could also have the first and second choices if he runs Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat as expected. A third Pletcher horse, High Cotton, also will get a good deal of support after his decisive score in the Sir Barton Stakes on Preakness day.

Tom Albertrani, who saddled Bernardini to a brilliant victory in the Preakness off only three career starts, will be represented by Deputy Glitters, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) over Bluegrass Cat. The son of Deputy Commander had a horrible trip in the Kentucky Derby and actually ran well to finish eighth at odds of 60-1. He has the pedigree and the stride to handle Belmont's big, sweeping turns and could be the sleeper.

Other Derby starters who have been waiting for the Belmont are third-place finisher Steppenwolfer, fourth-place finisher (in a dead-heat) Jazil, and 17th-place finisher Bob and John, winner of the Wood Memorial (gr. I), who has been working brilliantly at Santa Anita.

Nick Zito, who has been trying all winter and spring to make some kind of impact on the 3-year-old division, finally picked up some prestigious black type when he sent out longshot Hemingway's Key to finish third in the Preakness, a race Zito was hoping would set the colt up for the Belmont Stakes. It was two years ago that Zito sprung a surprise in the Belmont by upsetting Smarty Jones  with 36-1 shot Birdstone. He finished second last year with another longshot, Andromeda's Hero.

It might be worthwhile to pay attention to Oh So Awesome, a former European runner who was purchased by Team Valor with the express purpose of running in the Belmont Stakes. The son of Awesome Again  had a decent prep in his U.S. debut, finishing third in the Match the Hatch Stakes in the slop at Belmont. He is trained by Jimmy Jerkens.

Team Valor finished second in the 1992 Belmont with European import My Memoirs, who was beaten three-quarters of a length by A.P. Indy. They also finished third in 1998 with 28-1 shot Thomas Jo.

Two horses considered possibles for the Belmont are Preakness also-rans Greeley's Legacy and Platinum Couple.

The last time the Belmont was contested without the winners of the Derby and the Preakness was in 2000 when longshot Commendable won for D. Wayne Lukas. Before that, you have to go back to 1970.