About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 15-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

Find more about me on:

Here are my most recent posts

High-Tech Jockey Silks Part of Mike Smith and Justify’s Successful Triple Crown Victory

KYDby_CoadyPhotography

Coady Photography

Amarillo, Texas – June 13, 2018  —  Jockey Mike Smith was wearing a new type of high-tech silks in all three legs of his 2018 Triple Crown bid. Speed Silks® brand jockey silks are made entirely of an aerodynamically-engineered, patented technical fabric that’s already used in speed sports like cycling, speed skating and downhill skiing.

WinStar Farms —whose colors Smith wore aboard Justify in the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G-I) and Preakness Stakes (G-I)— has been buying and using Speed Silks since the spring of 2015. China Horse Club became a customer in the spring of 2017; Smith wore their colors in his 2018 Belmont Stakes (G-I) win.

The 2018 Triple Crown wins are the latest in a number of very high-profile wins by jockeys in Speed Silks. Since the product launched in August 2013, Speed Silks have been on the winners of two Kentucky Derbies, two Preakness Stakes, two Belmont Stakes and one Breeders’ Cup Classic (G-I).

“I’m flabbergasted by the amount of success our owners have had in such a short amount of time,” says Speed Silks inventor and owner Matt Darby. “We knew we had a great idea when we started the design process several years ago, but we weren’t sure how readily the industry would accept it. But more people in Thoroughbred racing are adopting the philosophy of ‘marginal gains,’ and thankfully they’re now starting to pay attention to the importance of aerodynamic drag. It’s critical. More important than weight, in fact.”

Justify winning the Belmont – AP source

Speed Silks were designed from the ground up with two priorities: reducing aerodynamic drag, and jockey comfort. A key to both is the patented technical fabric Aero Dimplex®. The textile is dimpled —much like a golf ball— which reduces both form drag and skin friction. [Darby can explain both at length; his contact information follows.] It also allows the use of dye sublimation to apply the colors and markings of each owner’s specific silks; that eliminates the need to sew the markings piece-by-piece. Instead, they are dyed directly into the fabric. Built with a form-fitting pullover design, Speed Silks are entirely seamless, further reducing weight and drag.

“The seamless design was adopted entirely with aerodynamic drag in mind,” Darby says, “but it also gives the silks a very distinctive, high-end look that owners love. That was a surprise early on: a lot of owners seemed more excited about the way the silks looked than their aerodynamic properties! I’m not complaining, mind you.”

Aero Dimplex is thin, very breathable, moisture-wicking and very stretchy. “Regarding comfort, jockey feedback has always been overwhelmingly positive,” Darby adds. Speed Silks this summer will add a new feature to its products: Coldblack®, a patented textile treatment that blocks and reflects ultraviolet light, keeping the garment and the wearer cooler in the sun.

Previous major wins in Speed Silks include 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern (jockey Martin Garcia/owner Kaleem Shah), 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (Mario Gutierrez/Reddam Racing), 2016 Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator (Kent Desormeaux/Big Chief Racing) and 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit (Jose Ortiz/Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners).

Darby’s inspiration to build better silks came at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Arizona. He had just accepted a marketing position at the American Quarter Horse Association in Amarillo, Texas. Most of his work was on behalf of the racing department, and so the Association regularly sent him to tracks across the country. During his visit to Turf Paradise —the first horse race he had ever attended— he asked a co-worker why the jockeys were wearing such baggy silks.

“He almost didn’t understand the question,” Darby remembers. “That gives you a good idea of the mentality we’ve had to overcome with this product. People in this business haven’t traditionally thought about wind resistance. They always think about weight, but it turns out that’s much less important than aerodynamic drag. I studied the subject a lot when I was knocking around the idea of better silks.”

“Anyway, I kept asking around, and I always got the same answer: ‘I don’t know, they’ve always been like that.’ I discovered that “aero” silks showed up in the early 90’s, but they were never terribly popular with jockeys because those Spandex silks are heavy and they don’t breathe. That’s another reason we went with Aero Dimplex fabric: it’s very comfortable for the jockey.”

“So, once I was convinced the concept was valid, I got to work designing the first round of prototypes. I had the help of a Quarter Horse jockey, G.R. Carter, Jr. He was the biggest name in the business at the time, but that’s not why I picked him; he was the only jockey I knew personally. He was incredibly helpful and made the perfect “model” jockey. Plus, he’s a bit larger than your average Thoroughbred jockey, and I’d rather the silks be a little too large than a little too small. They need to be form-fitting without restricting movement,” Darby says. Speed Silks are available in two sizes: Regular and Large. Regular is the default size for North American jockeys.

The first set of Speed Silks was sold in August of 2013 (to Wes Melcher’s Double Infinity Ranch). Two important things happened quickly: Bob Baffert’s office called to order Speed Silks for a couple of their owner-clients, and the Australian horse racing retailer horsefabulous inquired about representing Speed Silks in the Asia-Pacific region.

“So right away, we had one of the biggest names in the business buying our stuff, and we get a foot into the Asia-Pacific market,” Darby says. Both of those relationships are going strong today.

Speed Silks are patent-pending. The product lineup includes silks jackets, racing helmet covers, jockey pants and boot sleeves – a product unique to Speed Silks. Examples of the product can be seen at SpeedSilks.com/Gallery. Matt Darby is available for comment at (806) 570-6920 or MJDarby@me.com. Customers wishing to inquire about Speed Silks can e-mail info@SpeedSilks.com or call (806) 333-8589.  Asia-Pacific customers e-mail info@horsefabulous.com.au.

World Horse Racing Created to Promote the Sport

Promoting Horse Racing Worldwide

A ground-breaking new media company dedicated to telling the story of international Thoroughbred horse racing has launched.

World Horse Racing will give fans exclusive access to the thrills, glamour and culture of one of the world’s most enthralling sports.

This major new media brand is unique in being powered by four iconic racing festivals – Ascot and Goodwood Racecourses in the UK, Breeders’ Cup in the United States, and Australia’s Victoria Racing Club.

Launching across the major social networks, World Horse Racing’s fresh approach to the sport aims to earn the respect of hardcore fans and attract sports enthusiasts who have yet to explore horse racing.

World Horse Racing will focus on racing’s astonishing athletes and engaging personalities – human and equine – along with the festivals that stage the greatest of sporting spectacles.

young attractive British racegoerThe authority and access afforded by its global network of founding partners will allow World Horse Racing to bring fans closer to the sport’s stars, and offer new, striking treatments of international thoroughbred horse racing.

World Horse Racing will also connect the sport’s stars with its fans by providing a platform for the very best in user generated content.

Coverage will be free to access on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, along with an existing network of over a million who follow founding partner pages.

“We already know horse racing is one of the most popular sports in the world,” said Ascot’s chief commercial officer, Juliet Slot, “but we felt there was real potential to tell our brilliant stories to a much wider audience. World Horse Racing gives us the perfect platform to reach a new generation of fans and give a more compelling and engaging story arc compared to standard news coverage. All four of us have so many fascinating tales to tell and it’s these ‘Wow, I never knew that’ pieces of content that we’re looking to celebrate.”

Breeders’ Cup CMO Bryan Pettigrew said of the launch: “Breeders’ Cup continues to forge relationships and collaborate with international racing leaders to move the Thoroughbred industry forward. WHR is a prime example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. We anticipate a great partnership with Ascot, Flemington and Goodwood in promoting our sport on a global platform.”

“Horse Racing has always had the most incredible stories that sit behind the sport,” said Goodwood’s MD, Adam Waterworth, “and World Horse Racing will tell those stories to a new and wider audience. In recent years the sport has become increasingly global, and so it seems the perfect time for a collection of the world’s most important festivals to launch a new platform that will enrich the existing fans experience through some real behind the scenes and previously unseen content, as well as introduce racing to a new audience by focusing on the horses, the people, and the sport.”

Neil Wilson, CEO of The Victoria Racing Club, said: “We’re excited to join with Goodwood, Ascot and Breeders’ Cup to showcase the best of horseracing around the world. This is an opportunity to broaden our reach and engage with racing fans globally by highlighting our spectacular race days including the four days of the world-renowned Melbourne Cup Carnival, our events, our equine and human athletes and the people behind it all, to new and existing audiences. World Horse Racing is a must-follow destination for fans seeking original and exclusive stories on and off the track.”

World Horse Racing’s social media will be produced and managed by Engage Digital Partners, which has a team of 80 staff in UK and India with on-ground presence in the Middle East, USA, Argentina and Australia. Engage has an impressive sports pedigree, working with the likes of World Rugby, Major League Baseball, Godolphin, Arsenal FC and Vodafone.

To find out more about World Horse Racing – and to catch up on the latest stories – search for World Horse Racing on social media, or just go to worldhorseracing.com.

Source: Press Release

Push underway to bring Greyhound and Horse Racing back to Kansas

Push underway to bring Greyhound and Horse Racing back to Kansas

KMBC Kansas City Full coverage

Source: Push underway to bring Greyhound and Horse Racing back to Kansas

4 Horse Racing Movies Everyone Should Watch

Let it Ride movieDon’t Miss #2

Horse racing may be one of the oldest equestrian performance sports in the world, but it still remains quite popular and maintains a relatively huge following even in our modern world of today. With possibly one of the greatest horse racing events on the horizon, there’s a lot of interest among pundits regarding the …

Source: 4 Horse Racing movies that you should watch

What’s your favorite horse racing that you think everyone should watch?  Comment below!

Justify Becomes the 13th Triple Crown winner

Justify went right to the front from his rail post and dictated the way under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith en route to a gate-to-wire victory in the 150th Belmont Stakes.  Longshot Gronkowski, first time out for trainer Chad Brown, was the only horse to make a real run at the dominant winner, but he was no match for Justify.

Sports Betting May Not Happen Quickly Despite SCOTUS Ruling

Sports bettingDespite the state Legislature paving the way for sports gambling almost five years ago, regulators in New York tasked with implementing a framework for the industry appear to be in a holding pattern following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a limit on the states that can offer sports gambling.

Source: Sports gambling maybe not imminent despite SCOTUS ruling

“Off the Charts” Horses to Watch & Trip Notes – June 8, 2018

Belmont Park horse racingBELMONT PARK

MANGO M (Race 1 @BEL, 6/7/18) – returned off a layoff and was well meant in his turf debut for trainer Shug McGaughey.  He was making a winning move on the far turn when he got boxed in and shuffled around by Whiskey Run.  Ducked to the inside and tried to win the race up the rail, but meanwhile the winner got a clear run on the outside to easily grab the victory.  Son of Tale Of The Cat wins back at this level next time out.

GULFSTREAM PARK

MASCARPONE (Race 4 @GP, 6/7/18) – jockey Jilver Chamafi was asleep at the wheel aboard this turf horse who had a lot of ‘run.’  Made his move way too late, and in the process, got the runner into some trouble turning for home that cost him all chance for the victory.  Finished a sneaky good 2nd behind the 6/5 favorite in a race he could have won.

PIMLICO

FLASH ATTACK (Race 1 @PIM, 5/19/18) – this gelded son of Harlan’s Holiday has been very consistent since moving into the barn of trainer Michael Stidham.  In the opener on Preakness Day he closed well for third against an impossible early speed bias.  Can win back on a fair track, going short or long.

STILL HAVING FUN (Race 8 @PIM, 5/19/18) – this was another one that was up against trying to rally from off the pace but he did so en route to a solid 2nd place finish behind the heavy favorite. Son of Old Fashioned is really good at 1 mile or less.

TENFOLD (Race 13 @PIM, 5/19/18) – in only his fourth career start this guy ran a very good race in the G1 Preakness Stakes.  He rebounded off a poor showing last time out at Oaklawn Park to be beaten less than one length to Justify.  Son of Curlin has a bright future for barn that is masterful at managing careers.  He could play a major factor in the Belmont Stakes.

 

Big Carryovers for Friday’s Belmont Card – 6/8/18

Belmont Park crowd

copyright Agameofskill.com

$62k Pick-5 Carryover Today!

The second day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will get even richer, with carryovers of $127,378 for the Pick-6 and $62,802 for the NYRA Bets Late Pick 5.

Only one favorite reached the winners’ circle on Thursday in Race 3, as Nigel’s Destiny (No. 4, $13.80) opened the Pick-6 sequence in Race 4, followed by longshots Bird’s Eye View (No. 6, $54.50) in Race 5, Athens Queen (No. 8, $24.20) in Race 6, the Astoria, La Sardane (No. 2, $10,80) in Race 7, the Grade 3 Intercontinental, with La Signare (No. 9, $14.60) taking the day’s feature in Race 8, the Grade 3 Wonder Again. Emmy Performance (No. 1, $10.80) took the day’s finale.

The consolation payout for five of six winners for the Pick-6 was $30,986.

Friday’s Pick 6 sequence will begin in Race 6 (with a post time of 3:36 p.m.) The NYRA Bets Late Pick-5 will start in Race 7. Both sequences will be highlighted by the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup, Grade 2, $400,000 New York, and the Grade 2, $250,000 True North.

Fans can catch the second day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival stakes action on a live national broadcast from 5:00-6:00 p.m. (ET), NBC Sports Network (NBCSN).

Source: NYRA

Get Expert Advice for the 13-race Belmont Stakes card from AGOS Founder Rich Nilsen

Nilsen's analysis

2018 Belmont Stakes Notes – Part II

Call to Mind, a 4-year-old owned and bred by Her Majesty, The Queen, took to the Belmont grass for the first time on Tuesday, galloping over the inner turf course in preparation for the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational on Friday.

The homebred, who arrived at Belmont last Friday, stepped onto the course around 9 a.m. and turned in a strong gallop under exercise rider Simon Scott. Galloping ahead of him was Prince of Arran, who also will be competing in the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup.

“I thought [Call to Mind] looked great,” said Harry Eustace, assistant to trainer William Haggas. “We went [to the turf] just to check his leads, and in that respect we were very happy. He popped his lead going into the bend and popped it coming off the bend into the straight. From our perspective, he did everything we wanted him to. He’s fit and ready. I think he was a bit exuberant once he got into his stride coming down the stretch. Simon said he was quite keen to keep going. We’re just keeping a lid on that and saving it for race day.”

Call to Mind has won two of eight starts, including a 1 3/4-mile listed stakes last August at Goodwood. The Galileo colt enters the Belmont Gold Cup off a third in the Group 2, 1 3/4-mile Yorkshire Cup on May 18 at York.

Eustace said Call to Mind will gallop on the main track tomorrow and might jog the morning of the race.

“We have quite a late race, so he might jog the wrong way Friday morning,” Eustace explained. “We want to keep him in a routine and get him out of his stall for the morning.”

Call to Mind will be Elizabeth II’s first starter at Belmont since Dawn Glory, trained by Christophe Clement, finished third in a maiden special weight in October 2012.

Two-year-old champion filly Caledonia Road strong in G1 Acorn gallop

A nice early-morning, 1 ¼-mile gallop around Belmont Park has Caledonia Road just about set to take on Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl and five other 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 1, $700,000 Acorn on Saturday at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Assistant trainer Heather Smullen was aboard for the gallop and said the 2017 2-year-old filly champion would school at the gate later Wednesday and perhaps on Thursday afternoon.

Caledonia Road, owned by Zoom and Fish Stable Inc., Charlie Spiring and Newtown Anner Stud, has displayed her talent around two turns, winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and starting 2018 with a win in a one-mile optional claimer on Apri; 29 at Belmont.

The Acorn is a one-turn mile, and Smullen said she’s not sure how the daughter of Quality Road will perform against the likes of Monomoy Girl, trained by Brad Cox, and Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante winner Moonshine Memories.

“Caledonia Road is doing really well, ” said Smullen, the assistant to Ralph Nicks, who is expected to arrive at Belmont Park later Wednesday. “The only thing is it’s a one-turn mile and we know she’s stronger around two turns.

“Brad’s filly [Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl] is nice. It’s a good group of horses. Moonshine Memories is no slouch. But our filly is doing well and it ought to set her up for Saratoga because we know she likes Saratoga and we know we have two-turn races. Ideally, the [Grade 1] Alabama is the goal, so we’ll go from there.”

Caledonia Road was purchased for $140,000 at the 2016 Keeneland Sale and won her first start, a seven-furlong race at Saratoga last September. A month later, she stepped up into Grade 1 company and finished second in the Grade 1 Frizette. Then came her 3 ¼-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, who will be aboard her for the Acorn.

In four races, the filly has career earnings of $1,277,800.

Trainer Dale Romans excited to be part of history in Belmont Stakes

For the fourth time in his career, trainer Dale Romans brings a horse to Belmont Park with designs on spoiling a Triple Crown bid. Albaugh Family Stables’ Grade 1 winner Free Drop Billy will be a decided long shot against Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, but Romans wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

“Wayne Lukas told me a long time ago when I was just getting started … he said he’s made millions of dollars running horses where people told him he didn’t belong, and if your horse is doing good don’t be afraid to give them a chance,” Romans said. “I’ve kind of stuck to that.”

Free Drop Billy, 16th in the May 5 Kentucky Derby last time out, will break from post-position 2 in a field of 10 as a 30-1 outsider in the program. The only horse inside him will be Justify, attempting to become the 13th horse to sweep the Triple Crown and just the second to do so without a loss.

Nilsen's analysis

“There’s only limited chances to run in a race like this,” Romans said. “After the Derby we didn’t know what we were going to do with him, but he’s just trained so well and he’s had some good breezes since the Derby. He’s doing great and I just think he deserves a chance to run with the best. We’ll try him out one more time.”

Romans was seventh in the 2012 Belmont with Dullahan, who inherited the favorite’s role when Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another was scratched on the eve of the race with a career-ending injury. Two years later, Romans-trained Medal Count – sent off at 24-1 – was third to Tonalist but three-quarters of a length ahead of California Chrome, who dead-heated for fourth in his Triple Crown attempt.

Keen Ice was 17-1 in 2015 when he finished third behind American Pharoah, whose victory ended a 37-year Triple Crown drought. Keen Ice would go on to become the only horse to beat American Pharoah during his 3-year-old season in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga Race Course.

“It’s fun and exciting to be a part of something that could be historic, like when we ran third the year Pharoah won,” Romans said. “Just being there and a racing fan, I was glad to be a participant and feel the electricity and energy from all the people and the fans that day. It makes the whole day a little bit more special.”

Free Drop Billy trained early Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs before boarding the same flight bringing Justify to New York. They were expected to arrive at Belmont Park in early afternoon.

‘Less stress and pressure’ with Blended Citizen’s outside post

Gary Hall, SayJay Racing and Brooke Hubbard’s Belmont Stakes starter Blended Citizen will navigate the 1 ½ miles of Belmont Park’s main track from the outside post 10 in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million classic, and will be one of nine others looking to prevent Justify from becoming the 13th winner of the Triple Crown.

The colt galloped once around the main track early Wednesday morning, and will continue the same regimen until race day.

The Doug O’Neill-trained colt by Proud Citizen is the lone starter in the 150th Belmont Stakes who owns a start and a victory at Belmont after he won the May 12 Grade 3 Peter Pan by 1 ½ lengths.

The post-position draw was just another step closer to race day, and not a major concern for Team O’Neill according to assistant trainer Leandro Mora.

“Being outside helps, but it’s a long race so you have plenty of time,” Mora said. “It really doesn’t matter much. It’s not like the Kentucky Derby where everybody is fighting for position. We’re happy. First of all, it’s a 10-horse field, and he’s going to be the last one to load. Usually there’s less stress and pressure, and now Justify is on the inside, he got the number that nobody wanted to have. So, for us it’s good.”

Handicapping past performances PPsThe big brown Kentucky-bred was labeled a slow learner early on. After three starts on dirt where he was unplaced, he was tried on grass where he began to progress, but it wasn’t until he debuted with blinkers in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park that the colt turned the corner.

“Early on at Santa Anita my exercise rider was telling me that the horse was seeing a lot when he was training in the morning,” said Mora. “We decided to put blinkers on in training. We brought him to Golden Gate, and I mentioned it to Doug.  I put blinkers on him, but I forgot to enter [the race] with blinkers, so the paddock judge took them off, and we still finished third. In the very next race, we remembered to enter with blinkers, and that’s when he won the Jeff Ruby. He also had them in the Blue Grass, but that was a tough race. Now he’s getting more and more mature, but we want to keep them on.”

Riding a horse with Blended Citizen’s style takes a jockey who can judge the pace as well as knowing when to send a long-striding horse according to Mora. Kyle Frey, who has been aboard the colt for his last four races and will ride in his first Belmont Stakes on Saturday, fits his horse perfectly.

“He got along with the horse really well, and he even admitted he should have been a little better in the Blue Grass,” Mora said. “He got a little bit out of position, but that’s horse racing. This horse doesn’t have a good turn of foot, but he’s a grinder, so a rider knowing the horse, he knows when he has to start making the move.”

Source: NYRA

2018 Belmont Stakes Notes – Part I

Hofburg Ready to Roll at 12 Furlongs

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said he has a plan for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes for Hofburg to have a chance to play spoiler when Justify attempts to become the 13th Triple Crown winner.

“You’d like to be within two, three lengths at the quarter-pole,” said Mott on Wednesday morning at Belmont Park. “I’ve been observing a lot of these marathons on dirt, and I don’t think you want to be a dozen lengths off the lead turning for home.”

Mott has been through these races before, coming up a winner in 2010 with Drosselmeyer at odds of 12-1. This time, the 64-year-old trainer from South Dakota, saddles a 3-year-old colt tabbed the 9-2 second choice behind Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Preakness winner Justify.

Of course, the biggest question is whether any of the 10 horses entered can handle the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion.”

“You’ve got to have a horse that really wants to do that, genetically capable of doing it,” said Mott. “That’s probably one of the main ingredients. Horses are made a little different, move a little differently, and some have the capacity to do it. Training is part of it, but rather I’d rather have a horse that is capable of doing that rather than one that is challenging as a miler trying to stretch it out.”

Hofburg seems to be well bred for the distance. He is by Tapit, the sire of three Belmont Stakes winners, including Tapwrit last year. On his dam side is Touch Gold, who won the 1997 Belmont and spoiled the Bob Baffert-trained Silver Charm’s quest for a Triple Crown.

Hofburg finished eighth in the Derby under Irad Ortiz, Jr., then skipped the Preakness and returned to Saratoga to train up to the Belmont. The Juddmonte Farms chestnut made the trip downstate on Monday, and has acclimated well.

“We got real lucky with the weather. He had a good trip on a dry road,” said Mott. “We’ve been through the paddock and he’s good. He was on the race track this morning; wasn’t too aggressive, pretty relaxed.

“He’s very good. We went into Churchill Downs with all the hoopla in there and it didn’t seem to faze him. He stays cool and calm. He knows what he’s there for and doesn’t seem to get too overly bothered. Until the race, he’ll just have regular gallops each morning around Big Sandy.”

Mott reported on two other horses he’ll saddle on Saturday, Good Samaritan in the Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap and Channel Maker in the Grade 1, $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan.

“Good Samaritan seems to be doing well. We’re anxious to run him at a flat mile to see what happens,” said Mott of his 10-1 shot. “We know we’re going to be a good ways back early in the race and hopefully he’ll come with a big run at the end.”

The 5-2 favorite for the race is Mind Your Biscuits, with Bolt d’Oro the second choice at 4-1 in the field of 11.

Channel Maker comes into the 1 ¼-mile Manhattan on the turf looking for his first victory in four starts this year. The son of English Channel will be ridden by Jose Ortiz and is 20-1 on the morning line.

Channel Maker finished fifth in the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 5.

“He had some traffic problems,” Mott said. “He’s a horse that probably needs to start his run a little earlier. He started, stopped and then redirected.”

The Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber owned 4-year-old has two wins, three second and three third from 16 career starts, with earnings of $516,250.

Nilsen's analysis

“I think it’ll get down to which horses have the pedigree and the stamina to finish.”

Bravazo gallops, looks to improve on Preakness finish

According to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Belmont Stakes contender Bravazo has settled in nicely and taken well to “Big Sandy” since arriving by van on Monday. Early Wednesday morning, he resumed his light, local preparation for the “Test of the Champion” with a routine gallop as he continues to assert himself as a legitimate threat to thwart Justify’s Triple Crown bid.

“The trip was easy and he had a good day on the track,” said Lukas, who trains Bravazo for Calumet Farm. “He just galloped and did very well. He won’t do anything of any consequence between now and the race. He’s fit. Now I just need to keep him happy the rest of the way.”

No horse has come closer to besting the undefeated Justify than Bravazo in the Preakness – in which he fell short by a half-length over a sloppy, sealed track at Pimlico – and if things had gone a bit differently, Lukas said his horse may have been the one to wear the Black-eyed Susans.

In the early stages of the Preakness, Bravazo was sitting in the catbird seat as Justify and Good Magic, the Kentucky Derby top-two finishers, duked it out on the lead. Around the far turn, the Calumet color-bearer dropped back a few lengths with no apparent mishap, only to re-emerge from the fog in deep stretch and nearly nail Justify on the wire.

“He had a very good trip in the Preakness,” said Lukas. “What we would change if we could change it, to make the outcome a little better, would be to maybe move a little earlier. When Justify came off the [far] turn, he moved and then we moved. If we moved when he moved we might have been able to upset him.”

Bravazo – the only horse in the Belmont other than Justify to have contested both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness – is tied with Blended Citizen as the most experienced horse in the field, with 10 starts under his belt, including five this year. This added seasoning may be just what he needs to turn the tables on his ballyhooed rival, according to Lukas.

“The foundation, just being fit, is going to help his chances,” said the trainer. “They’re all doing well; I’ve watched them all train. With the big configuration of the racetrack and the sweeping turns, we should have a good trip. I think it’ll get down to which horses have the pedigree and the stamina to finish.”

As far as whether or not he believes his charge has the necessary pedigree, the Hall of Famer simply offered, “on paper it looks that way, we’ll see what happens.”

Should Bravazo run according to his pedigree and navigate the 1 ½ miles of the Belmont oval faster than his nine rivals, it would give Lukas a record 15th victory in a Triple Crown race.

Awesome Slew seeks first Grade 1 win in Runhappy Met Mile

Live Oak Plantation’s multiple Grade 3 winner Awesome Slew returns to Belmont Park for Saturday’s $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap with another chance to fill what trainer Mark Casse said is the only blank spot on the 5-year-old’s resume – a Grade 1 victory.

A Florida-bred son and grandson of two-time Grade 1 winners Awesome Again and Seeking the Gold, Awesome Slew is the only one of 11 graded-stakes winners entered for the 125th Met Mile to have run in last year’s race, finishing fourth.

As he did in 2017, Awesome Slew drew the far outside post for the Met Mile, though one spot closer than last year. He has raced twice this year, both at seven furlongs, finishing second as the favorite to Army Mule in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap April 7 at Aqueduct in his first start in five months.

Awesome Slew followed up to be third by a neck in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs May 5 on the Kentucky Derby undercard, contested over a sloppy, sealed track. The two horses that finished in front of him, Limousine Liberal and Warrior’s Club, both return in the Met Mile.

“It’s an extremely tough race but that’s why they’re Grade 1s, right?” Casse said. “He’s doing extremely well. I thought his first race back of the year, we kind of felt like he was training better than ever. Obviously, he ran into a very good horse in Army Mule. I thought he ran well, had a wide trip.

“He came back and, you know what, I was a little disappointed. I thought he had every shot to win the Churchill Downs, but he didn’t,” he added. “The racetrack was very, very difficult that day. I don’t know whether that was a factor or not; I’m hoping it was. It looks like there’s a fair amount of speed in the Met Mile, and I like our post position, so we’ll see what happens.”

Though winless in two career tries at Belmont, including a second to probable Met Mile favorite Mind Your Biscuits in the 2017 Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship, Awesome Slew has been successful going one mile, winning the Grade 3 Ack Ack last fall at Churchill Downs. Also last year, he was second in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap and third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Awesome Slew also owns a win at 1 1/16 miles, going all the way on the lead to beat 13 rivals in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones in 2016.

“In the last race he made the lead with about a sixteenth of a mile to go and that horse beat him in the stretch. It was a ding-dong battle, really, down to the wire,” Casse said. “I know that the mile is not a problem for him. He’s won up to a mile and a sixteenth already, against a pretty good field. The mile’s not going to hurt his feelings at all.”

A member of the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame and a finalist for the second straight year in 2018 for enshrinement in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, Casse won the Met Mile in 2001 with another Florida-bred, Exciting Story.

“[A Met Mile win] would mean everything. This horse, he’s a beautiful horse. He’s got a good pedigree. He’s good looking, has a great mind. He’s got the entire package. The one thing he’s lacking right now is a Grade 1 win,” Casse said. “The Grade 1 would be huge, but the Met Mile Grade 1 is probably one of the most important races that a stallion prospect could win, and it would just elevate him to another level as a stallion prospect if he were able to win it.”