If the Preakness took anything out of War Emblem, he didn't show any signs of it Thursday morning, as he took to the track for his first gallop since winning the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Observers said the son of Our Emblem, who will attempt to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner on June 8, was feisty and playful in his gallop, and was bouncing and shaking his head coming off the track.
"You can't get to the bottom of this one," said assistant trainer John Good, who accompanied War Emblem on the pony. "I think he's put on weight since the Preakness. It's like the more you do with him, the tougher he gets."
Trainer Bob Baffert is currently back in California, and will fly to Grand Prairie, Texas this weekend to saddle Congaree in Monday's Lone Star Park Handicap. He will return to Louisville following the race to supervise War Emblem's first work, either on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The D. Wayne Lukas pair of Proud Citizen, runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness, and Table Limit, 11th in the Preakness, both galloped this morning, as did Perfect Drift, the third-place finisher in the Derby who is stabled at the Trackside training center near Churchill Downs. Trainer Murray Johnson said Perfect Drift will fly to Belmont on the same plane with War Emblem and the Lukas pair. Another likely passenger will be Request for Parole, fifth in the Derby. The Kenny McPeak-trained Sarava, impressive winner of the sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day will probably ship to New York earlier than the other Louisville-based horses. He'll work at Churchill next Tuesday.
Trainer Niall O'Callaghan said the status of Lone Star Derby winner Wiseman's Ferry is still up in the air. "He's going to work a couple of times," said O'Callaghan. "Usually, I determine where they go based on how they breeze after their race and then I see what other options are available. The next option after that would be the Iowa Derby (at Prairie Meadows on July 5) or the Ohio Derby (at Thistledown on July 20)."
O'Callaghan said Wiseman's Ferry would breeze at Churchill Downs on Saturday, but it will probably be several days after that before he makes his decision. "The 50 percent part you like about running is that he's a darned good horse," O'Callaghan said. "The 50 percent part I don't like about running is that he's by Hennessy. Horses that get a mile and a quarter can go a mile and a half, so the horses who ran in the Derby already know they can go a mile and a half. I'm convinced that the first three home in the Derby will be the first three and four home in the Belmont, too.
"But it's the Triple Crown, it's the Belmont. If it wasn't one of those races you'd say, 'I don't know what my horse will do at that distance, so I'm just going to forget that and go where I know he can run well.' But I don't know that he can't go a mile and a half either, and there's something about the Triple Crown -- there's a mystique to it. I know the Belmont is not the Derby, but it's certainly right up there."
Magic Weisner, second in the Preakness looks to be a definite Belmont starter, as is Essence of Dubai, who finished ninth in the Derby. The status of Azillion and Like a Hero will be determined after they run today in the nine-furlong Alydar Stakes at Hollywood Park. Saturday's Peter Pan will determine the status of Sunday Break, Puzzlement, and Ibn al Haitham.