Ron Winchell (left) with Martha Gilley and racing manager David Fiske at Pimlico Race Course

Ron Winchell (left) with Martha Gilley and racing manager David Fiske at Pimlico Race Course

Anne M. Eberhardt

Winchell's Faith Strong in Belmont Contender Tenfold

Curlin colt came within a length of upsetting Justify in the Preakness Stakes (G1).

Given Tenfold's impressive third-place finish in the sloppy Preakness Stakes (G1), less than a length behind Justify, you might reasonably expect owner Ron Winchell to be heartened by the prospect of afternoon rain June 9, as his homebred colt prepares for the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1).

Quite the contrary.  

"I am hoping not for rain," he said emphatically. "I want a fair, even track—a nice level surface on which Tenfold can gallop everybody into the ground."  

The lightly raced son of Curlin  out of the Tapit  mare Temptress will be making just his fifth start this weekend, but Winchell has no reservations about running the colt back on three weeks' rest.

"After watching him run in the Preakness, we said that if he came out of the race with energy, the Belmont was definitely something we'd like to do," Winchell said.

"Look at his pedigree," the owner continued. "He has a high cruising speed, and in the Preakness he had to be used a little bit on the final turn to get position, and he was playing against the grain of the track that day, which favored frontrunners. In the stretch, he looked like he had a chance to win, but he changed leads and lost momentum.

"If he can get into an even pace, he can cruise and get the distance."

Tenfold inherited the sponsorship by Sentient Jet conveyed upon his stablemate Combatant before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). Sentient Jet also arranged a partnership with Homes For Our Troops, a non-profit that builds homes for disabled and injured veterans and whose mission allied perfectly with Combatant's name.

But when Winchell and trainer Steve Asmussen elected to keep Combatant out of the Preakness and the Belmont, Sentient Jet and Home For Our Troops switched their allegiance to Tenfold.

"Everyone was happy with the way Combatant raised awareness about Homes For Our Troops," Winchell said. "So we decided to do it again for the Preakness, and that was fantastic, so we moved on to the Belmont."

As part of the arrangement—the financial details of which were not disclosed—veterans affiliated with Homes For Our Troops attended the first two races of the Triple Crown. On Saturday, veterans will once again be in the stands cheering for Tenfold.

"I told them they're invited to the winner's circle if we happen to be lucky enough to win," Winchell said.

Breaking from post 7, Tenfold is 12-1 on the morning line and will be ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., who's been in the saddle for three of the horse's four starts. Despite Tenfold's odds, Winchell won't be surprised if he, and the veterans, end up in the winner's circle.

"He's a little bit like Gun Runner ," said the owner, referring to his homebred who was named 2017 Horse of the Year on the strength of four straight grade 1 wins at age 4. "He's been continuously improving—getting bigger and stronger and better as he gets older.

"He was doing so good physically and mentally that we'd thought we'd give the Preakness a shot, and we fell three-quarters of a length short. He showed us that he is what we thought he was."