Wednesday's Belmont Stakes Report: Rush Hour

Angel of Empire (inside) & Tapit Shoes | Sarah Andrew


ELMONT, NY – With the rising sun attempting to make its way through hazy skies as air quality health advisories remain in effect throughout the New York City area due to the Canadian wildfires, eight of the nine GI Belmont Stakes runners were in action during the first hour of training on a cool Wednesday morning.

Angel of Empire (Classic Empire) and Tapit Shoes (Tapit), both equipped with white bridles and NYRA's commemorative 50th Anniversary Secretariat Belmont S. saddle towels, made a favorable impression in their first day of training for Brad Cox over Big Sandy at 6:12 a.m. Cox, represented by 2021 Belmont winner Essential Quality (Tapit), will also tighten the girth on the handsome gray Hit Show (Candy Ride {Arg}), who galloped with good energy nearly three hours later following the break.

Arabian Lion (Justify), cutting back to seven furlongs for the GI Woody Stephens S. on Saturday's loaded undercard, was among the first to stretch his legs over the freshly manicured surface. His Bob Baffert-trained stablemate and GI Preakness S. winner National Treasure (Quality Road) had a light day of training, jogging the wrong way along the outer rail at 6:23 a.m. The expected Belmont S. pacesetter posted a five-furlong bullet in Elmont two days earlier.

Il Miracolo (Gun Runner), the longest shot on the Belmont morning line at 30-1, made his presence felt a few minutes later for trainer Antonio Sano while sporting a blue pair of 'AS' blinkers along with a matching shadow roll and wraps.

The imposing duo of champion Forte (Violence) and Tapit Trice (Tapit), meanwhile, were both on their toes after a 1 1/4-mile gallop and gate schooling session for Todd Pletcher on the nearby training track at 6:48 a.m. Pletcher needs one more win in the 1 1/2-mile Classic to reach even terms with the late, great Hall of Famer Woody Stephens, who won an unthinkable five straight renewals of the Belmont from 1982-86.

Red Route One (Gun Runner) also took to the training track earlier, galloping 1 1/2 miles at 6:00 a.m.

The 'morning rush' concluded with Arcangelo (Arrogate)–who was back at it galloping on the main track a day after being credited with an unplanned four-furlong bullet workout in :48.94 (1/11)–while a small group of media assembled outside of Pletcher's barn to get a closer look at the two aforementioned likely favorites in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

With the Air Quality Index (AQI) hovering around an 'Unhealthy' 160 a day before the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival is slated to get underway, NYRA's Vice President of Communications Pat McKenna said in a statement, “NYRA utilizes external weather services and advanced on-site equipment to monitor weather conditions and air quality in and around Belmont Park. Training was conducted normally (Wednesday), and NYRA will continue to assess the overall environment to ensure the safety of training and racing throughout the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.”

When the AQI is at 175 or higher, live racing could be canceled, according to HISA's air quality guidelines.

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