Phillips Racing Partnership's Best Minister, impressive winner of the Sir Barton Stakes, will be supplemented to the Belmont Stakes for a $100,000 fee, as trainer Kenny McPeek attempts to catch lightning in a bottle for the second year in a row. Last year, McPeek upset the Belmont with his 70-1 Sir Barton winner Sarava, who has since been turned over to Bob Baffert.Best Minister broke his maiden impressively in his fifth start, winning by 12 lengths going nine furlongs at Keeneland before winning the Sir Barton by three lengths over the Baffert-trained During. McPeek admitted that winning the Belmont last year under similar circumstances helped in the decision."The timing is super, the horse is doing good, and you only get one chance at the Belmont," McPeek said. "He was very immature last year and ran very poorly in his one dirt race, which is why we didn't nominate him to the Triple Crown. We kicked him out after the fall and gave him some time to grow. I know he can run all day."
Best Minister is scheduled to fly to New York from Kentucky Tuesday and will be stabled in McPeek's barn. McPeek said that although Best Minister has been back to the track, he is not likely to work until he arrives at Belmont.With regular rider Edgar Prado committed to ride Dynever, Shane Sellers will get the mount on Best Minister, unless Prado becomes available.Best Minister's maternal great-grandsire is Little Current, who also is the maternal great-grandsire of Funny Cide. Little Current died earlier this year at age 32, which made him the oldest living winner of the Belmont and Preakness prior to his death. Little Current raced for part owner John Phillips' grandfather, John W. Galbreath, owner of Darby Dan Farm. Best Minister's great-granddam, Java Moon, like Funny Cide's great-granddam, Cherished Moment, is a daughter of Darby Dan stallion Graustark.In other Belmont Stakes news, Sackatoga Stable's Funny Cide jogged once around the wrong way over Belmont's sloppy main track this morning, the same thing he did Wednesday morning, with assistant trainer Robin Smullen aboard.Trainer Barclay Tagg said he plans to change things Friday morning for Funny Cide.
"I'll probably have him go two times the wrong way tomorrow," Tagg said. "He's so damn strong that if I tried to gallop him every day, there'd be nothing left of him. He'll go backwards all day long; it's just play for him."I'll probably school him twice before the Belmont. I haven't decided on a work day. The way I have it laid out, it would probably be on the 11th day back. It depends on the weather and the way he is."Bob and Beverly Lewis' Scrimshaw, the third-place finisher in the Preakness, returned to the track for the first time since the race this morning at Churchill Downs, according to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas."We're just trying to get his energy level back up," said Lukas. "I have not planned a workout for him. I'll let him tell me when he's ready. He's getting better with every race and that's the main thing. He was behind early, but he's getting closer to where we want him. He needs to move up in the Belmont."Wayne Hughes and Biscuit Stables' Atswhatimtalknbout returned to the track at Churchill Downs this morning as well. He had Wednesday morning off after working there Tuesday morning."He just jogged this morning," said trainer Ron Ellis, who elected to leave the A. P. Indy colt at Churchill following his fourth-place Kentucky Derby finish. "He's done well at Churchill. Bob Baffert's horses have run well shipping into Belmont the week of the race without working over the track. There's still a chance I'd want to give him a work at Belmont. If we do that, I'd have to ship him early."
William Farish's Preakness runner-up Midway Road is under consideration for the Belmont Stakes although no final decision on the colt's status may be announced for a few days.
"The Belmont is still up in the air," trainer Neil Howard said. "We'll need a few more days to decide. He went back to the track and jogged Wednesday and everything seems fine. We were more than thrilled with the result of the Preakness. He always trained well and he always looked like he'd do better with more time and maturity. Last fall he had an entrapped epiglottis and that's probably why he came up short in the Kentucky Jockey Club. The myectomy has definitely helped his confidence. "We're taking a serious look at the Belmont. We have to size everything up. There are some other nice races like the Ohio Derby, too. The Jim Dandy and Travers could be in the cards."Lone Star Derby winner Dynever is scheduled to make his first grade 1 appearance in the Belmont Stakes. The Dynaformer colt jogged twice around the main track this morning."I thought he jogged great," trainer Christophe Clement said. "If the track is okay tomorrow, we'll breeze him after the break. He'll probably breeze a half-mile and gallop out five furlongs. I'm very happy with how he came out of the Lone Star Derby. He looks fresh and he's been eating well."With the recent additions of Colita and Best Minister, the Belmont field is now at eight. Alysweep, Christine's Outlaw, Midway Road and Outta Here remain possible starters.