While the Belmont Stakes field remains an early work in progress, several trainers with possible sights on the final jewel of the Triple Crown have either indicated interest or put their horses through workouts with that June 5 race in mind.
The Belmont Stakes field of possibles starts with Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality. Along with Brad Cox stablemate, Mandaloun, Essential Quality put in a 50.2-second half-mile workout at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Mandaloun breezed that distance in 48.20 seconds.
After Essential Quality’s fourth in the Derby, Cox said that he considered the colt for the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes field. He hasn’t committed either way. Cox hasn’t specified a next outing for Mandaloun, who finished second by a half-length to Medina Spirit in the Derby.
Given Medina Spirit’s positive test for excessive amounts of the anti-inflammatory bethamethasone, Mandaloun could be the Derby winner by the time the Belmont Stakes rolls around in 19 days. If Medina Spirit’s split sample comes back positive, Churchill Downs already said it will disqualify him.
Midnight Bourbon wants another Triple Crown round
Neither Cox horse ran in the Preakness, but Midnight Bourbon did, finishing second to Rombauer by 3 ½ lengths. The Preakness winner is likely for the Belmont. And after Midnight Bourbon vanned from Baltimore back to Churchill Downs, his trainer, Steve Asmussen, said on Sunday the Belmont Stakes is under consideration.
“Of course it is,” he told the Maryland Jockey Club. “All major 3-year-old races are under consideration for the rest of the year. Let’s get him back to normal circumstances just to see where we are with him. That also gives us time to see everything that’s out there and knock out a plan for him for the second half of the year.”
Midnight Bourbon finished sixth in the Derby, his only off-the-board finish in eight races (2-2-3). If Asmussen sends him to the Belmont Stakes, he may be one of the few horses to run all three Triple Crown races. The only other two contenders for that feat are Medina Spirit and Keepmeinmind. Those two went 3-4 in the Preakness.
Medina Spirit a question mark for Belmont Stakes field
Keepmeinmind, who finished seventh in the Derby, is likely for the Belmont. As for Medina Spirit, he was on the fence after his third in the Preakness. The New York Racing Association announced Monday afternoon it temporarily has suspended all of Bob Baffert’s horses from its tracks. That suspension, whose length is unspecified, came in the wake of Medina Spirit’s positive test result.
UAE Derby champ Rebel’s Romance returns to fray
Rebel’s Romance, who won the March 27 UAE Derby by 5 ½ lengths in Dubai arrived at Belmont Park last week. The gelding is likely for the Belmont Stakes field, putting in a light jog and mile canter on Sunday.
Other likely or leaning Derby starters returning for the Belmont include Hot Rod Charlie, who finished third in the Derby, Known Agenda (ninth), and Brooklyn Strong (15th). Possible new shooters include Promise Keeper, who won the May 8 Grade 3 Peter Pan at Belmont Park, and Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat.
Malathaat’s presence would add plenty to a Belmont Stakes field lacking a Triple Crown storyline. Rick Nichols, the vice president and general manager of owner Shadwell Farms, told Thoroughbred Daily News there weren’t a lot of options for the undefeated 3-year-old filly.
Finding two-turn races for Grade 1 fillies a tall order
That’s because Malathaat runs best over two turns. The next Grade 1, two-turn race for 3-year-old fillies isn’t until July 24 at Saratoga. That’s the American Oaks.
Neither Nichols, nor trainer Todd Pletcher, has decided if Malathaat will run in the Belmont Stakes. If she does, she’ll be the first filly to do so since Unlimited Budget finished sixth in the 2013 Belmont Stakes.
But Pletcher knows this routine. He won the 2007 Belmont Stakes with filly Rags to Riches, who became the first filly to win the Belmont since 1905.