Trainer Neil Howard confirmed Monday that William S. Farish's Midway Road would skip the Belmont Stakes in favor of a run in the $300,000 Ohio Derby (gr. II) at Thistledown on June 21. "We feel like this is the best thing for our horse," said Howard. "He made such a jump from an allowance race to a classic race, that we just thought we'd be smarter, knowing what we know about the horse and the way he's improving, to just be careful to do whatever we can to keep him going in that direction. We didn't know if it would be the smartest thing right now to take him up there and go a mile and a half against those kind of horses right now - especially a horse like Funny Cide, who is doing so well."The size of the prospective field for the Belmont has been shrinking in recent days, but Howard said that had no bearing on the decision made by Farish, who is the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, and himself.
"He's a lighter, immature type of colt and he's really starting to fill out now," said Howard. "Everything is starting to come together, mentally and physically. And neither Mr. Farish nor myself take any of the Triple Crown races lightly. You have to hold them in the regard in which they should be held. We think he's going to be better in August, September and October and it would be more prudent to look at other options than to go a mile and a half with him right now." Howard said that, since he will not be in the race, he would be rooting for Funny Cide to complete the rare sweep of the Visa Triple Crown."I've got to be honest with you -- I was going to be cheering for him anyway," he said. "Obviously you want to win any race you're in, but this is such a great thing for Barclay (trainer Barclay Tagg) and the industry. Being in the Preakness with him and watching the way he ran in the Preakness, you've got to feel great for them."