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.

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“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