Prat To Replace Gaffalione On Sierra Leone In Belmont

Sierra Leone | Tim Wilkin


'TDN Rising Star' Sierra Leone (Gun Runner) will have a new running mate in the GI Belmont S. at Saratoga Race Course on June 8.

After watching the GI Kentucky Derby runner-up work five furlongs in 1:02.64 (5/6) on the Oklahoma Training Track Saturday morning, Brown said he was making a rider change.

Tyler Gaffalione is out; Flavien Prat is in.

Sierra Leone lost the Derby by a nose to Mystik Dan (Goldencents) and finished a nose ahead of Forever Young (Jpn) (Real Steel {Jpn}). Sierra Leone is owned by Peter M. Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg and Brook T. Smith.

In the rugged run in the stretch of the Derby, Sierra Leone bumped several times with Forever Young as Gaffalione was unable to keep his mount from lugging in.

Gaffalione was fined $2,500 by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) “for touching a rival with his left hand.”

It appeared that Gaffalione was trying to keep Sierra Leone from Forever Young and used his hand to push off.

Brown felt that his rider should have had his riding stick in his left hand, not the right, earlier in the drive down the Churchill Downs stretch.

“He didn't have his stick in his left hand until the eighth pole, and it cost him,” Brown said. “This is not a punishment; the understanding is that's the way this horse likes to travel and you have to be prepared for this horse. We knew that.

“[Gaffalione] was prepared for the first two races [GII Risen Star S.] and GI Toyota Blue Grass S., both wins] and I was a little disappointed he wasn't really prepared until the eighth pole (in the Derby). With a horse that's lugging in, you can't have your stick in your right hand and slapping him on his right shoulder until the eighth pole. I'm going to move forward with the change and see how it goes.”

Exercise rider Kriss Bon was on Sierra Leone for Saturday's five-furlong move, accomplished inside of stablemate Domestic Product (Practical Joke), who was 13th in the Kentucky Derby after winning the GIII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. Domestic Product could run in the GI Woody Stephens S. at seven furlongs on Belmont Day.

This was the second Saratoga work for Sierra Leone, who will be one of the favorites in the 1 1/4-mile Belmont.

“He looked super,” Brown said. “I just wanted a steady five-eighths work to just keep him where he's at. He's very fit. I was thrilled with how he was moving.”

Brown also said he is still thinking about running 'TDN Rising Star' Tuscan Gold (Medaglia d'Oro) in the Belmont.  He was a non-threatening fourth behind Seize the Grey (Arrogate) in the GI Preakness S. after not caring for the muddy surface at Pimlico Race Course.

Brown said he will make a decision after the horse works next weekend.




Honor Marie Works at Churchill

If the weather stays right in Kentucky, Honor Marie (Honor Code) will spend another week in Louisville before shipping to Saratoga for the Belmont.

The eighth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby had his second work since the Run for the Roses when he went five furlongs in 1:01.40 (27/51) Saturday morning at Churchill Downs.

“I liked the whole thing,” trainer Whit Beckman said from Louisville. “Since the Derby, he has shown good energy. He popped out of that race–despite a real tough trip–in fantastic shape. Last week, we had a nice easy half and, this week, we just wanted a solid five-eighths, something well within himself. He looked good throughout.”

Maurilio Garcia, Beckman's assistant and the regular exercise rider for Honor Marie, was aboard.




If the forecast is right, weather in Louisville next week will be sunny with temperatures ranging from the high 70s to low 80s. That would keep Honor Marie in the Bluegrass State for another work either Friday or Saturday.

Then, the tentative plan would be to van to Saratoga on Sunday, June 1.

One thing Beckman will have to do is find a new rider for Honor Marie, who is owned by Ribble Farms LLC, Michael H. Eiserman, Earl I. Silver, Kenneth E. Fishbein and Dave Fishbein.

Ben Curtis, who rode Honor Marie in the Derby and to a second-place finish in the GII Louisiana Derby, broke his collarbone last weekend and is out for five to six weeks.

Rafael Bejarano rode Honor Marie in his first four career starts.

“You would like to have consistency carry through from race to race,” Beckman said. “There are a couple guys we are considering, but we have not made any final decisions. There are jockeys that ride [Saratoga] very well and some guys down here.”

McPeek Will Take His Time…Again

Trainer Kenny McPeek isn't going to rush anything when it comes to a decision on whether or not Derby winner Mystik Dan (Goldencents) runs in the Belmont.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. McPeek took his time before announcing the colt would compete in the Preakness. That news came out a week before the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

“He is doing good,” McPeek, accompanied with his sidekick, Sonny the dog, said Saturday morning while watching horses train at the Oklahoma Training Track.

Mystik Dan, owned by Lance Gasaway, 4 G Racing LLC, Daniel Hamby III and Valley View Farm LLC, galloped down the Oklahoma and into the turn, just stretching his legs. He will do more in a work next weekend and then a decision would likely be made.

“He needs to be eating good, doing good,” McPeek said. “And I want to see who is out there, who is going, who is not going. We will take our time.”

McPeek also said the Belmont is still on the table for his GI Kentucky Oaks winner Thorpedo Anna (Fast Anna), owned by Brookdale Racing, Inc., Mark Edwards, Judy B. Hicks and Magdalena Racing (Sherri McPeek). Winner of four of five career starts by a combined 26 1/4 lengths, Thorpedo Anna galloped on the Oklahoma Saturday morning.

McPeek did say he will not run both horses in the Belmont.

When asked if there was a possibility he doesn't have any entrants in the Belmont, he said, “I don't think so.”

If Mystik Dan runs in the Belmont, he would become the first horse to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown since War of Will did it in 2019. Twenty-four fillies have run in the Belmont and three have won, the most recent being Rags to Riches in 2007.

The last filly to run in the Belmont was Nest, who was second in 2022.

If Thorpedo Anna does not run in the Belmont, she will stay with the fillies and run in the GI Acorn S. at Saratoga on June 7.

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