Mindframe Turning Heads Heading Into Belmont Stakes

Mindframe | Sarah Andrew


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – So far, a colt named Mindframe (Constitution) has been nothing short of mind blowing.

Two starts. Two wins. By a combined margin of 21 1/4 lengths. His connections think so much of him that start No. 3 will be the GI Belmont S. Saturday at Saratoga.

Trainer Todd Pletcher and co-owner Mike Repole are confident the lightly raced horse will make a credible showing in the 1 1/4-mile Belmont. Despite having little experience, Mindframe was made the 7-2 second choice by New York Racing Association linemaker David Aragona.

Mindframe broke his maiden by 13 3/4 lengths on the same day that stablemate Fierceness was dominating the GI Florida Derby. In his second start, on GI Kentucky Derby day, he dominated an allowance optional claimer, winning by 7 1/2 lengths.

If Mindframe were to do more of the same in the Belmont, Pletcher and company might really have something.

“He could become the freshman that is the star on the varsity,” Repole, who owns Mindframe along with Vinnie and Teresa Viola's St. Elias Stable, said by phone. “If he wins this race, we might have something really special, something we haven't seen too many times.”

Mindframe will start the Belmont from post position nine and will have jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. on board. He is the only horse in here that has never run in a stakes race. The water is considerably deeper, but Pletcher and Repole are betting Mindframe can swim.

“We know he fits,” Repole said. “Whether he comes in first by five or fifth by 10, he fits. We are the freshest horse in the race. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage? I guess we'll find out Saturday.”

Speaking about Fierceness…

Fierceness (City of Light), the well-beaten favorite in the G1 Kentucky Derby continues to be a work in frustration for the people who work the closest with him.

“He has,” Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said when asked if the colt has been a head scratcher. “He has been brilliant at times.”

And not so good at others.

Pletcher pulled the plug on the G1 Belmont S. for Fierceness after deciding the horse needed more time after his 15th place in the Run for the Roses. Fierceness' new target is the G1 Haskell Invitational S. at Monmouth Park on July 20. Fierceness won the Eclipse Award for best 2-year-old colt last year after a 6 1/4-length win in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Following an up-and-down winter in Florida, Fierceness went to Louisville as the favorite off a record 13 1/2-length win in the GI Florida Derby.

Then, the Derby dud. Now, a regroup.

“At the end of the day, putting these horses in spots where they are ready and can win has always been what I want to do and what Todd wants to do,” owner Mike Repole said.

And that is not where Fierceness is right now. He is a horse, Pletcher and Repole said, that  needs more time between races. He has continued to gallop every day on the Oklahoma Training Track. He is healthy. He's getting ready to race; he just wasn't ready for the Belmont.

“He has been one that isn't as consistent as normal horses with that much talent can be,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully, it's something he will regain with a little bit of time from the Derby to the Haskell.”

Moving forward, that seems to be the new blueprint for Fierceness. Race, then take a boatload of time between the next one.

“Let's not give up on Fierceness,” Repole said.

Seize the Grey | Sarah Andrew

Brown won't feel the pressure

There is no extra pressure on trainer Chad Brown. He has the 9-5 morning line favorite in Saturday's GI Belmont S. morning line favorite in Sierra Leone (Gun Runner). What could make things even more stressful is Brown grew up down the road in Mechanicville, 16 miles from Saratoga Race Course.

“I don't approach the race any different,” Brown said outside his barn on the Oklahoma Training Track. “I know there will be a lot more interest, but I don't want to be distracted.”

Sierra Leone was expected to do big things in the GI Kentucky Derby and he did. However, it was an agonizing finish when the horse just missed, losing by a nose to Mystik Dan (Goldencents). That's part of the game every trainer most likely will endure at some point.

“Losing the Kentucky Derby was very disappointing,” Brown said. “With horse racing, or any professional sport, you better be prepared for the worst. Anything can happen in the big games. You could lose a championship game by a one kick, one shot missed, you could run out of time on the clock, a photo finish. You really have to be prepared for that if you are going to play at the top of any sport.”

Lukas feeling the love

The good wishes started the first day Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas arrived in Saratoga last Saturday. And it hasn't stopped.

Lukas, forever young at the age of 88, accompanied GI Preakness winner Seize the Grey to the track each day as he prepared him for Saturday's GI Belmont Stakes. Exercise riders aboard other horses shout out congratulations to Lukas as do people walking by on the Oklahoma Training Track.

Seize the Grey became the seventh Preakness win for Lukas; overall, he has 15 Triple Crown race victories. It has been a constant barrage of well wishes to Lukas and his striking grey horse.

“Well, it's a great feeling knowing you have accomplished something, that has gotten everyone's interest” Lukas said outside his barn at the Oklahoma. “But I've been there. I have had the experience. I take it more in stride now. As you get older, you realize the ups and downs in this business come real quick. Everything can be beautiful one day and tomorrow you can be nowhere.”

Saturday, Lukas saddles Seize the Grey in the GI Belmont S. Going into it, Lukas has that beautiful feeling.

“My horse has actually gotten better (since the Preakness),” Lukas said. “I would not have been afraid to run him last Saturday.”

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