- LOCAL CLOCKERS BACK JUSTIFY IN BELMONT
- SANTA ANITA JOCKS INVADE BELMONT PARK
- McCARTHY EYES A WEEKEND STAKES SWEEP
CLOCKERS SEE TRIPLE CROWN FOR JUSTIFY
As the minutes tick by at a sloth-like pace, the world of racing sits in antsy anticipation of Justify’s pursuit of a Triple Crown sweep at Belmont Park tomorrow.
It will either be history or hysteria, or perhaps both, if the undefeated winner of the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes becomes the 13th horse to capture the Triple Crown and only the second to do so while unbeaten, following Seattle Slew in 1977.
Since Justify is based at Santa Anita under the masterful metamorphic maneuvering of Bob Baffert, who better to ask about the big red colt’s chances than two respected resident Santa Anita clockers, Andy Harrington and Gary Young, the latter also a bloodstock agent with a keen eye for a horse, and known to make a wise wager or two when the opportunity arises.
“I’m just as high on Justify as I was before,” Harrington said. “I thought he sort of ran his ‘B’ game in the Preakness, and still won, still beat them all, and it seems like from every gallop and every work I’ve seen since, he’s doing fantastic.
“I think he’s moving forward out of the Preakness and we might see something kind of special in the Belmont.”
Young missed the betting boat early on, despite being well aware of Justify’s potential.
“I tried desperately to get down on him in the (Kentucky Derby) Future Book, and I didn’t,” Young said. “I was on record as saying he was far and away the best horse in the race, and I’m not surprised that he’s on the brink of immortality.
“I expect him to go to the front and win. I give (Bill) Mott’s horse (Hofburg) a little chance, and (Steve) Asmussen’s horse (Tenfold) a little less chance than that.
“The rest of them, I would be flabbergasted if they beat Justify.”
Meanwhile, Doug O’Neill, on the verge of capturing his fourth Santa Anita training title, leading runner-up Phil D’Amato, 24-21, with 11 days remaining in the Spring Meet, was sitting by his lonesome in Santa Anita’s grandiose Grandstand Friday morning as Blended Citizen was poised in New York waiting to tackle Justify.
“How could you not be excited,” said O’Neill, who takes an 8 o’clock Jet Blue flight tonight from California to the Big Apple where Blended Citizen will be his first starter in the Belmont after two unexpected cancellations, with I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in 2016.
“It’s an honor to be a part of any of the Triple Crown races, but having a horse like Blended Citizen, who won the Peter Pan (on May 12) makes us pretty optimistic, since seven of the last 39 Belmont winners have won that race,” O’Neill said.
The field for the 150th Belmont: Justify, Mike Smith, 4-5; Free Drop Billy, Robby Albarado, 30-1; Bravazo, Luis Saez, 8-1; Hofburg, Irad Ortiz Jr., 9-2; Restoring Hope, Florent Geroux, 30-1; Gronkowski, Jose Ortiz, 12-1; Tenfold, Ricardo Santana Jr., 12-1; Vino Rosso, John Velazquez, 8-1; Noble Indy, Javier Castellano, 30-1; and Blended Citizen, Kyle Frey, 15-1.
NBC-TV’s national telecast will air from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Pacific Time, with scheduled post time for the Belmont at 3:46 p.m.
Fans are invited to enjoy many festivities at Santa Anita on Belmont Day. They can partake in Chandelier Room tequila tasting, a Nineties by Nature 90’s concert in the Infield, a trackside package that includes the Family Fun Zone, and a $500,000 Late Pick Four pool guarantee. Visit santaanita.com/events for more information.
First post time is 12 noon. Admission gates open at 8 a.m.
SANTA ANITA JOCKEYS INVADE BELMONT PARK
Santa Anita-based jockeys riding in stakes at Belmont Park tomorrow include Victor Espinoza, Kyle Frey, Corey Nakatani, Flavien Prat, Mike Smith and Drayden Van Dyke.
The 94 horses entered in the 10 stakes offering $7,200,000 in purse money on Belmont’s Breeders’ Cupesque card have earned a total of $59,429,451.
Which horse has earned the most? No, it’s not Justify.
(Answer in Finish Lines below).
McCARTHY HOPES FOR STAKES DOUBLE IN HONEYMOON, AFFIRMED
Michael McCarthy goes for a weekend stakes sweep with Paved in Saturday’s Grade II Honeymoon Stakes and Axelrod in Sunday’s Grade III Affirmed Stakes.
Paved, a $320,000 daughter of Quality Road, was third in the Grade III Providencia Stakes April 7 after beating males in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate on Feb. 17.
Axelrod, a three-year-old Florida-bred son of Warrior’s Reward, returns to dirt after two close finishes in overnight races on Santa Anita’s unique downhill turf course at about 6 ½ furlongs. The bay colt’s two victories, however, have both come on dirt.
“We’re looking forward to leading her over there,” McCarthy said of Paved. “She ran well last time although the pace did not set up for us. Hopefully, we’ll get a little more pace to run at, be able to tuck in and save some ground doing into the first turn.
“Axelrod is a two-time winner on dirt, it’s a small field, so why not take a shot right now?”
The Honeymoon, race eight of 11: May Girl, Tyler Conner, 20-1; Finess Bere, Tyler Baze, 12-1 Animosity, Geovanni Franco, 6-1; Ms Peintour, Stewart Elliott, 4-1; Fatale Bere, Alonso Quinonez, 5-2; Miss Sienna, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Movie Moment, Joe Talamo, 10-1; and Paved, Gary Stevens, 3-1.
The Affirmed, named for the 1978 Triple Crown winner: Run Away, Flavien Prat; 7-2 King Cause, Kyle Frey, 15-1; Afleet Ascent, Stewart Elliott, 6-1; Axelrod, Alonso Quinonez, 8-1; Solomini, Martin Garcia, 4-5; and Draft Pick, Joe Talamo, 4-1.
FINISH LINES: Jockey Agapito Delgadillo, who has come out of retirement more times than Brett Favre, returns to action next Thursday. The 52-year-old native of Mexico City, whose name rolls off the tongue with alacrity, will be reunited with agent Susan McBrayer . . . Eight of the nine winners at Golden Gate Fields last Sunday were favorites. The Pick Six paid $163 . . . Hoppertunity, a seven-year-old full horse trained by Bob Baffert, has earned more money than any entered at Belmont Park Saturday, $4,426,625. The son of Any Given Saturday runs in the Brooklyn Invitational at a mile and a half under Santa Anita’s leading rider, Flavien Prat.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Thursday, June 7)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||101||17||18||15||17%||50%||$1,050,605|