Thursday’s Trackside Belmont Report

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Gormley | Sherackatthetrack

By Steve Sherack

ELMONT, NY – With all 12 of the GI Belmont S. runners now stabled on the grounds, there was no shortage of action to take in on an absolutely beautiful morning two days out from the main event.

The lightly raced Meantime (Shackleford), a dominating Keeneland maiden winner this spring and runner-up in Belmont’s GIII Peter Pan S. May 13, trained once again in Brian Lynch’s first set shortly after the main track was opened for business.

Trainer Todd Pletcher shielded the bright morning sun from his eyes as ‘TDN Rising Star’ Patch (Union Rags), second-best in the GII Louisiana Derby, and GII Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapwrit (Tapit) continued their preparations just after 6 a.m. The pair was 14th and sixth most recently in the GI Kentucky Derby.

The flashy gray or roan Multiplier (The Factor), a narrow winner of the GIII Illinois Derby and sixth-place finisher in the GI Preakness S., followed suit and galloped by about five minutes later. He adds blinkers for the Belmont.

Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee (Lookin At Lucky) and Preakness third Senior Investment (Discreetly Mine) were both out stretching their legs at approximately 6:40 a.m. and were joined by longshot Hollywood Handsome (Tapizar), a last out first-level allowance winner at Churchill Downs May 14, just a few minutes later.

With already more than half of the Belmont S. field accounted for in about a one-hour timespan, several other high-profile runners from the loaded Bob Baffert and Mark Casse barns slated to compete in Belmont Festival races this weekend also made their presence felt throughout the a.m., including GI Met Mile heavyweights Mor Spirit (Eskendereya) and Awesome Slew (Awesome Again); 2-1 GI Acorn S. morning-line favorite and GI Kentucky Oaks heroine Abel Tasman (Quality Road); and popular GI Manhattan S. contender World Approval (Northern Afleet).

Two-time Grade I winner Gormley (Malibu Moon), ninth in the Derby, and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Irish War Cry (Curlin), 10th in the ‘Run for the Roses,’ both made very favorable first impressions while getting their first look at Big Sandy between 7:15-30 a.m as the crowd assembled by the gap–which also included prominent owner Mandy Pope and advisor Todd Quast–continued to grow.

There, of course, isn’t a Triple Crown on the line, or even a Derby or Preakness winner entered this Saturday, but there was certainly a buzz on the backstretch as a very special filly made her way out just before 8 a.m.

Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer and assistant trainer Christina Jelm headed over to the gap as the mighty Songbird (Medaglia d’Oro) entered the track through the paddock tunnel. The 1-2 GI Ogden Phipps S. morning-line favorite and ‘TDN Rising Star’ jogged a mile the wrong way with the pony and also visited the starting gate. The Fox Hill colorbearer had plenty of the press corp in hot pursuit as she headed back to her temporary digs at the Phipps barn as well.

The streaking New York-bred Twisted Tom (Creative Cause), a winner of his last three attempts, including Laurel’s Federico Tesio S., and ‘TDN Rising Star’ and GIII Gotham S. winner J Boys Echo (Mineshaft) were the last two Belmont S. horses to train, taking care of business shortly after the break.

Japanese invader Epicharis (Jpn) (Gold Allure {Jpn}), the 4-1 morning-line second choice in the Belmont, was noticeably absent during training hours Thursday. The G2 UAE Derby runner-up was treated with Bute after being diagnosed with lameness in his right front, according to the New York State Gaming Commission’s vet report. He is, however, scheduled to resume training Friday, according to trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara.

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