Friday Notes: Hennig Says Eddington Ready to Go

(from Belmont Park notes)
Willmott Stable's Eddington, the third-place finisher in the Preakness (gr. I) and 10-1 on the morning line for Saturday's 136th running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-olds, galloped a mile and three furlongs over Belmont's main track Friday.

"He's ready," trainer Mark Hennig said. "He's doing as well as can be expected."

With the weather forecast changing to rain and colder for tomorrow, Eddington might face an unknown element. He finished third over a "good' track in the Gotham, but has never raced in the mud.

"I don't think it will be a problem," he said.

Preakness runner-up Rock Hard Ten schooled in the starting gate and galloped over the main track. The Kris S. colt is listed as the third wagering choice on the Belmont Stakes morning line at 8-1 and is considered one of the main dangers to derail Smarty Jones' Triple Crown bid. Rock Hard Ten has also afforded his 35-year-old trainer, Jason Orman, a taste of the big time.

"It's been great," said Orman of his Triple Crown debut. "I'm very lucky to have the horse. I've got to thank Mr. Moody and Mrs. Paulson for leaving the horse with me. They could have given the horse to a big name trainer with big race experience."

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent Purge out for a 1 ½-mile gallop on the main track this morning.

"He looked good doing it," Pletcher said.

Saturday, Purge will gallop on the main track if it is open or on the training track, if the main track is closed because of anticipated rain.

"I don't think [rain] is going to be a problem for us, and obviously, it's not going to hurt Smarty Jones either," said Pletcher, who lost to Smarty Jones in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) in the slop.

Gilbert Campbell's Tap Dancer trained at Monmouth Park Friday morning, then boarded a van to take him to Belmont Park for his engagement in Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

"He's on his way," said trainer Ned Allard. "He galloped a mile real nicely this morning. He's ready to go out there and do some running."

Tap Dancer has won twice from 10 starts. He strung both his wins together last summer at Calder when he broke his maiden August 16 and returned two weeks later to take the $53,000 Seacliff. The son of Sword Dance has never run on a wet track.

"You never know how they handle it until the try it," Allard said. "He seems to handle it in his training, but there are few horses who don't gallop well in the mud."

Longshot Master David galloped 1 ½ miles for Hall of Fame trainer Robert Frankel Friday morning as his preparations closed in on race day. Frankel, though still considering Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones hard to beat, remains confident that his colt, who finished 12th over the Derby's sloppy track, will run well in the Belmont.

Prior to the Derby, Master David finished a strong second in Aqueduct's Wood Memorial (gr. I) and just two weeks ago, the son of Grand Slam finished third in Belmont Park's Peter Pan Stakes (gr II).

Jockey Jose Santos, who will pilot Master David, believes in the colt, too, saying he was impressed with Monday's five-furlong workout. "He worked out well, finished well and galloped out real strong," Santos said.

Trainer Nick Zito sent his tandem of Belmont Stakes prospects to the main track for their final serious outings.

Both Birdstone and Royal Assault galloped once around the 1 ½-mile oval. Birdstone comes to the race following a troubled eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and Zito believes the five weeks of training between the Derby and the Belmont has been helpful to last year's Champagne Stakes (gr. I) victor. Edgar Prado will ride the son of 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, bred and owned by Mary Lou Whitney, on Saturday.

Zito is hoping Royal Assault, bred and owned by Tracy Farmer, can reprise in the Belmont his victorious run in Pimlico's Sir Barton Stakes on May 15. Hall of Fame rider Pat Day retains the mount from the Sir Barton.

Trainer Angel Medina said that Victor Achar's Caiman galloped between a 1 1/2 mile and two miles over the main track this morning. The Belmont longshot is 4-for-8 with his last win coming over the turf course at Hawthorne.

"I know the race is going to be very tough," Medina said. "My horse is coming up to the race well and he's bred for the distance. I think he will run a good race. He's handled the track well in his gallops. We have nothing to lose."