Final Workout for Casino Drive
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Casino Drive worked four furlongs over a muddy Belmont surface Thursday morning.
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After being delayed by one day due to inclement weather and track conditions, Casino Drive’s final preparations for the June 7 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) were completed Thursday when the son of Mineshaft   worked at Belmont Park.

The half-mile workout was not officially listed on the Belmont Park work tab, but a private clocker timed it in 57 seconds. The connections of the Japanese-based colt have said they do not work horses in the traditional U.S. breezing method, so the times are usually slower than those for American horses.

Jockey Edgar Prado, who will have the mount in the classic, was aboard Casino Drive for the first time during Thursday’s work.

“He showed speed right away,” Prado told trainer Kazuo Fujisawa immediately after the workout. “He did everything by himself, comfortable.”

Prado noted that as soon as Casino Drive turned around to begin the work, a horse from another stable went by and the colt “wanted to go after the other horse.”

As is the routine, Fujisawa had Casino Drive and stablemates Park Candle and Champagne Squall, both of whom race at Belmont Park this week, walk through the stable area and paddock for about 45 minutes before going to the track, going at a brisk pace. After the work, they walked the stable area for another 30-45 minutes to cool down.

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With Big Brown going for the Triple Crown in the Belmont, Prado will be seeking his third Belmont, all on upsetters. Prado and 70-1 shot Sarava ended War Emblem’s Crown bid in 2002 and the jockey was aboard Birdstone in his huge upset over Smarty Jones 2004.

Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto who serves as the stable’s spokesman, said Prado was selected when it became apparent that Kent Desormeaux, who rides Big Brown, would not be available. Tada represented Desormeaux when he made annual forays to Japan earlier this decade and the rider was aboard for Casino Drive’s victory in the Pater Pan Stakes (gr. II) in his U.S. debut.

Casino Drive, who will be making only his third career start in the Belmont, has history on his side going into the race. He is out of the mare Better Than Honour, who has produced the last two Belmont winners – Jazil in 2006 and Rags to Riches in 2007. Tada noted that the victory by Rags to Riches motivated the Casino Drive connections to point the colt to this year’s Belmont.

"We decided if the horse is good, we're going to bring him, we've got to bring him to America," Tada said. "Especially to the Belmont. ... We were lucky he was good enough to bring here. But we feel we didn't bring him. His pedigree brought us here."

Bred in Kentucky, Casino Drive will be the first horse based in Japan to compete in the Belmont. Tada said there is widespread interest in the Belmont in Japan, where the race will be televised live at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

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