Best Minister, winning the Sir Barton Stakes, will not run in the Belmont.

Best Minister, winning the Sir Barton Stakes, will not run in the Belmont.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Best Minister Withdrawn from Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes was dealt a serious blow Wednesday when Phillips Racing Partnership's Best Minister was diagnosed with a lung infection and was taken out of consideration for Saturday's classic.

Trainer Ken McPeek said Best Minister coughed several times when he returned to the barn after a routine gallop. McPeek heard the horse cough when he was leading Best Minister over to be filmed by TVG. The colt was scoped by Dr. Steve Carr, who detected the lung infection.

"We thought something might be wrong," McPeek said. "He left two-thirds of a scoop of feed yesterday. He was killing his feed before we came here. He has been little bit shaky since he arrived here. He normally is 5 a.m. feeder and wasn't finishing up his feed until after 10."

Best Minister raced his way into the Belmont picture with a victory in the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness Day card at Pimlico. Since he was not nominated to the Visa Triple Crown series, his owners would have had to pay $100,000 to get supplemented to the Belmont.

John Phillips, the partnership's manager, had flown to New York Wednesday morning and was stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway on his way to Belmont Park when he spoke with McPeek.

"He's not 100% and if you're not 100% you can't give up that edge," Phillips said while attending the post position draw for the Belmont. "If you're not 100%, you shouldn't be racing, period. You have to take care of the horse. Everything else is secondary."

Phillips will remain in New York. "I'm still going to have a great time this weekend." His Wonder Again is entered to run in the Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Belmont undercard. He'll also be rooting for Funny Cide.

"I'd like to see this horse do it."

additional reporting by Evan Hammonds