Gronkowski in his stall at Belmont Park the morning after placing second in the Belmont Stakes

Gronkowski in his stall at Belmont Park the morning after placing second in the Belmont Stakes

Anne M. Eberhardt

Belmont Challengers Regroup After Facing Justify

Connections of runner-up Gronkowski, Free Drop Billy said they might try turf racing.

Riley Mott summed up the post-Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) sentiment pretty well, for those not connected to Triple Crown winner Justify.

"It could be (an interesting rest of the year for the 3-year-old division)," said Mott, the assistant trainer for Belmont third-place finisher Hofburg, a day after the June 9 Belmont. "But we've got to try to find a way to beat that one."

What "that one"—also known as Justify—might do next is unknown to anyone outside the undefeated chestnut's camp, but the talented group that tried to end his quest for the Triple Crown appears to have exited the final leg of the 3-year-old classics in good order, with decisions ahead for the rest of their campaigns.

For Hofburg, a ride to Saratoga Race Course on Sunday is up next for the two-time grade 1-placed Tapit  colt. He'll be evaluated there by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott before any future plans are made.

The plans for Belmont runner-up Gronkowski are a little more defined, according to trainer Chad Brown, who said the Lonhro colt came out of the race in good order.

"My initial thought is to keep him on the dirt and point him to a race like the Travers (Stakes, G1)," Brown said. "But we also have the Belmont Derby (Invitational, G1T), which is a mile and a quarter, and you would think he would handle the grass, too. So it's something to think about. My initial thought is just to keep the horse on the dirt and find a way to get to the Travers."

Free Drop Billy, who came in seventh in the Belmont, could also try grass going forward, according to Jason Loutsch, general manager of Albaugh Family Stables.

"He ran hard," Loutsch said. "(He) will get a little rest and may try the turf."

Fifth-place finisher Tenfold will get at least a brief breather, according to trainer Steve Asmussen.

"I mean, it was the Belmont, so we'll probably back off him a little bit, maybe let him walk a few days," Asmussen said, with a bit of a sarcastic twang.

Bob Baffert said Restoring Hope came out of his eighth-place finish in the Belmont well. Like his stablemate Justify, he'll ship to Churchill Downs on June 11 and get evaluated there for future races.

Blended Citizen, who raced at the back of the pack and never threatened in a ninth-place Belmont finish, walked and grazed outside Barn 17 on the Belmont Park backside Sunday. He will ship back to his home base in Southern California, according to trainer Doug O'Neill. The Proud Citizen colt spent the last month at Belmont after his score in the May 12 Peter Pan Stakes (G3).

"All's good," O'Neill said. "Back to California."

Todd Pletcher, trainer of Belmont fourth-place finisher Vino Rosso and 10th-place Noble Indy, was unavailable for comment Sunday morning, as was D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of sixth-place Bravazo.

Alicia Wincze Hughes contributed to this report.