With a persistent light rain falling Friday morning, trainer Niall O'Callaghan found a dry, warm spot to talk to the press -- inside the track kitchen. But the same question kept coming up: Is his Wiseman's Ferry the key to the Belmont Stakes (gr. I)?
Because he has shown speed in his last two starts, including a win in the Lone Star Derby (gr. III), everyone thinks Wiseman's Ferry will be the horse to challenge War Emblem on the front end in the Belmont as he bids to become racings 12th Triple Crown winner.
"I just don't think that's the case," O'Callaghan said. "If War Emblem is the horse, then he'll win. He's just a good horse. He's won the Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I), and still people are underestimating him. He's a good horse."
So, why run against War Emblem? "He's a good horse, but he'll have to earn it," O'Callaghan said. "If he wins, we'll know he's a great horse."
Wiseman's Ferry, who races for Mort Fink, Lee Sacks and Swifty Farm, raced from off the pace last year in Europe when he was trained by Aidan O'Brien and owned by the Coolmore partners.
"He did race from off the pace last year, but I think that was more because that is the more European style of racing," O'Callaghan said. "He is certainly not one dimensional, as he has shown in his dirt races here this year."
O'Callaghan purchased Wiseman's Ferry and several other runners from O'Brien in a package deal. "I saw some horses I thought would be better suited to the dirt," O'Callaghan, who is based at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, said. "What I liked about Wiseman's Ferry is he's a free-running horse...much like Keats, who I also trained and who is by the same sire (Hennessy)."