Met Mile and Belmont Stakes Notes

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Zedan Racing Stables’ multiple Grade 1-winner Taiba will skip Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap, at Belmont Park.

Taiba worked seven-furlongs in 1:27.40 Friday at Santa Anita in what was to be his final prep for the one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and up which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at the Arcadia, California oval. He has not raced since an eighth-place effort in the Group 1 Saudi Cup on February 25 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

“His works have been good, but not like I’d like to see them. I just don’t think he’s ready for something like that yet,” said Baffert, who won the 2017 Metropolitan with Mor Spirit. “I’m going to wait and run him at Del Mar. He’s doing well, but not well enough for the Met Mile. To run in the Met Mile, you have to bring your ‘A’ game and I don’t think he’s quite there yet.”

The 4-year-old Gun Runner colt’s trio of Grade 1 scores came in the Santa Anita Derby last April, the Pennsylvania Derby in September at Parx and the Malibu in December at Santa Anita.

National Treasure Works for Belmont Stakes

SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan’s Grade 1 Preakness-winner National Treasure is slated to breeze Monday in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

The Quality Road sophomore added blinkers and made all the running in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 20 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez up, outdueling Blazing Sevens for a narrow head score with Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Mage settling for third.

Baffert said he is hopeful that National Treasure will appreciate the added ground in the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion.”

“You never know until they do it,” Baffert said. “He handled the Preakness distance and it wasn’t a problem for him. We’re all in the same boat. None of them probably want to go that far, but if they don’t go too fast, they can do it.

“I just want him to show up like he did at Pimlico,” added Baffert. “He’s never really run a bad race. All his races have been competitive. He’s a pretty consistent horse. He’s happy and he’ll breeze tomorrow and hopefully everything goes well.”

Baffert, who previously won the Belmont Stakes with Point Given [2001] and Triple Crown-winners American Pharoah [2015] and Justify [2018], will be in attendance Saturday for the final leg of the Triple Crown.

National Treasure graduated at first asking in September at Del Mar and hit the board in a trio of stakes in the Grade 1 American Pharoah [2nd] in October at Santa Anita, the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile [3rd] in November at Keeneland and the Grade 3 Sham [3rd] in January at Santa Anita. He finished fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in April ahead of his Preakness coup.

Zedan Racing Stables’ graded-stakes placed Arabian Lion rolled to a frontrunning four-length score last out under Velazquez in the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard.

While initially under consideration for the Belmont Stakes, Baffert decided to point the Justify chestnut to the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores.

“On the turnback, sometimes they run well. We’ll send him back to two turns again after that,” Baffert said.

Arabian Lion, who boasts a ledger of 6-2-2-0 for purse earnings of $217,600, entered the Sir Barton from a pacesetting runner-up effort to First Mission in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Lexington on April 15 at Keeneland.

Undercard of Belmont Stakes 2023

Baffert will also enter multiple graded-stakes placed Fort Bragg in the Woody Stephens. The Tapit colt, who was third in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity in December, finished second last out in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile a neck back of returning rival General Jim on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs.

“He’s still improving and filling out,” Baffert said. “He’s maturing and there’s a lot of room to improve.”

Baffert previously won the Woody Stephens with Bayern [2014] and American Anthem [2017].

The Belmont Stakes headlines the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival that features a total of 16 stakes events from Thursday, June 8 through Saturday, June 10. For additional information on the 2023 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and details on hospitality offerings, ticket packages and pricing, visit BelmontStakes.com.

Source: NYRA.com