Reeves Confident in Belmont Contender Sole Volante

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Sole Volante | Coglianese

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Dean and Patti Reeves, fourth with Tax (Arch) in last year's GI Belmont S., will be represented in this year's race by Sole Volante (Karakontie {Jpn}), who took the long route from Florida to New York Tuesday.

“He's going by FedEx,” Dean Reeves said while the gelding was en route Tuesday. “Whatever kind of package, I guess they can do it. He had to go to Memphis and had a layover there and he should get into New York around 8 p.m. [Co-owner and assistant trainer] Andie [Biancone] is already up there, so she'll be waiting on him when he gets to Belmont.”

Trainer Patrick Biancone purchased Sole Volante for $20,000 at the 2019 OBS April Sale and gave the bay to his daughter Andie as a birthday present. The gelding won his first two races, including the Nov. 30 Pulpit S., on the turf before hitting Reeves's radar screen with a late-running third-place effort over the dirt in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man S.

“I give credit for finding him to Jay Stone,” Reeves said. “He had watched the horse up there and he helps me a lot buying runners. He called me about the horse and he said this is really a turf horse, but he looked darn good in the Mucho Macho Man on the dirt. He was really closing on those horses. So we watched his back videos and I thought even if he doesn't become a two-turn dirt horse, this will be a good horse on the turf because he has great closing kick. Jay set up a meeting and I met with Patrick for a couple of hours at Gulfstream Park and talked it through and we came up with a deal that worked for he and Andie. So that's when we bought a majority interest in the horse.”

Sole Volante proved he was more than a turf horse when he won the Feb. 8 GIII Sam F. Davis S. in his first start for the Reeveses and he came back to prove he could be a bona fide Kentucky Derby contender with a runner-up effort behind King Guillermo (Uncle Mo) in the Mar. 7 GII Tampa Bay Derby. The form of that race was bolstered when King Guillermo returned to run second behind Nadal (Blame) in the May 2 GI Arkansas Derby.

“When we went to Tampa and he won that race, I really felt like this was going to be a nice horse,” Reeves said. “And even though we finished second, King Guillermo has turned out to be a heck of a runner himself. If he had gone to Arkansas and gotten beat by 20 lengths, then you'd rethink that some. But he ran big and he's going to continue to run big. That's a nice horse.”

With the reshuffling of Triple Crown races this year, connections decided to skip the trip to Arkansas with Sole Volante and chose to give the gelding some time off ahead of the extended Classic season.

“When we saw the Triple Crown races were going to be spread out all the way to October, we knew we would have to give him the time somewhere along the line,” Reeves said. “We took it at the start. So we skipped going to Arkansas and gave him the time, which has really helped him.”

That decision left Sole Volante potentially returning from a lengthy layoff to run in Saturday's Belmont and, when rain forced a missed work, Biancone called an audible and started the bay in a Gulfstream Park allowance just a week ago. He came from last to first to win that one-mile race in a prep Reeves hopes sets him up for a trip to the Belmont winner's circle.

“It had been over 100 days since he had raced, so we wanted to get him where he had to go through the motions. He had to go to the paddock, he had to get in the gate. He actually put up a good time and got a good Rag number and Beyer number. It couldn't have worked out any better. If you wrote it up, that's what you would have wanted to see from the horse.”

Reeves said Biancone has seen enough out of Sole Volante since last week's race to take a tilt at this year's first leg of the Triple Crown.

“After the race, we said we had 10 days to see how he was doing before we had to make a firm decision,” Reeves explained. “We started putting a plan together. We really left it up to the horse and we waited until the very last minute to see Monday how he galloped and Patrick said he was fabulous.”

The other option for Sole Volante would have been to wait for the July 11 GII Toyota Blue Grass S. at Keeneland, but with an eye towards the delayed Sept. 5 GI Kentucky Derby, connections decided to head to New York.

“We thought if we skipped the Belmont and pointed to the Blue Grass and then something happened, if he got a fever or a bruised foot, and for some reason you had to skip that, then you are squeezing the time getting to the Derby,” Reeves said. “We wanted to secure our points. We are 14 [on the Derby points board] now, but you never know another horse could come in and get a lot of points. We would feel a lot better if we had enough points and we didn't have to worry about getting into the Derby. That was a little bit the reasoning going to Belmont. I think that will give us the opportunity to run in the [GI] Travers S. in August and that would set us up to run in the Derby. That's our long-range plan.”

The 2020 Triple Crown will conclude with the Oct. 3 GI Preakness S., but for Reeves a Triple Crown win would be cause for celebration no matter the timing of the races or how the victor is judged by history.

“I'll be glad to have an asterisk,” he said of a potential Triple Crown sweep in an unprecedented year. “I'll have two or three, however many asterisks they want to give me. I'll take all the asterisks they want to give me and be happy to win the Triple Crown.”

While Sole Volante carries his colors in Saturday's Belmont, Reeves will be watching from afar as owners are still not permitted at the racetrack due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Us owners, we work our tails off to get to these races and when you finally get a horse that gets there and you have to stay home, it just kills you,” Reeves said. “But the worse side of it would be no race at all. So if that's the best we can do, we understand everyone is under a lot of pressure and right now we just have to deal with it. We're going to have a party [at home] and enjoy the day.”

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