G1 Belmont Stakes winner Arcangelo feeling good the morning after acing “Test of the Champion”
by NYRA Press Office
- G1 Belmont Stakes winner Arcangelo feeling good the morning after acing “Test of the Champion”
- Mott has an embarrassment of riches with Cody’s Wish and Elite Power
- G1 Travers the long term goal for G1 Belmont Stakes runner-up Forte, third-place finisher Tapit Trice
- BSRF-winners In Italian and Marketsegmentation could square off in G1 Diana
- Pretty Mischievous possible for G1 CCA Oaks
- Caravel earns 102 BSF for G1 Jaipur conquest against males
- $150K Birdstone is 'Next' for G2 Brooklyn winner
- Arabian Lion, National Treasure in good order following their respective Grade 1 efforts
- G1 Ogden Phipps-winner Clairiere in search of year-end honors
- David Donk remembers Woody Stephens and his five consecutive Belmont Stakes wins
Trainer Jena Antonucci went to work as usual on Sunday morning, sending out a trainee to breeze a little past 8 a.m. at Belmont Park. The only difference in her morning routine was a sudden rush of reporters and photographers that gathered around a blanket of white carnations, clamoring to get a view of racing’s newest millionaire Arcangelo, the impressive winner of Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
Antonucci, who won her first Grade 1 and became the first woman to train a winner of a Triple Crown event, said she is still processing the scale of the accomplishment 12 hours later.
“Everything is still a little bit numb on some levels, and I’m just trying to sort everything out,” Antonucci said. “I’m just grateful and appreciative of what he did for us yesterday and it’s pretty cool.”
Arcangelo, a grey son of Arrogate owned by Blue Rose Farm, added his name to the storied list of Belmont Stakes winners with an inside trip under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who won his first Belmont and claimed victory in two of the three jewels of the Triple Crown this year after winning his first Grade 1 Kentucky Derby aboard Mage.
The next morning, Arcangelo napped on and off in his stall and awoke to nicker excitedly at other horses walking the shed row. Antonucci said all is well with the talented ridgling after his 1 1/2-length triumph.
“He’s taking a nap and that’s normal for him,” said Antonucci. “He’s a hard sleeper.”
Arcangelo’s team is no stranger to being patient, and will continue that attitude going forward as a potential next start is planned. Antonucci said the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course could be included in the discussions, but stressed that she has made no firm plans yet.
“There is zero idea. We know what the calendar is and what’s where, so we’ll let him come out of this and tell us,” Antonucci said. “[The Travers] is on our radar, but the stakes schedule is there and if it’s seven weeks until we run or 11 weeks until we run, we’ll just back into it.”
A humble Antonucci said she is grateful that the timing of the Belmont unfolded in her favor as the late-blooming Arcangelo came into his own at the perfect time to land the historic victory.
“I’m glad it worked out in the calendar,” said Antonucci, with a laugh. “I haven’t been able to organize what it means yet. It’s special and if it gives other people a little more hope or a push, then that’s amazing.”
The 155th running of the “Test of the Champion” marked the 50-year anniversary of Secretariat’s electrifying 31-length Belmont triumph. One of the symbols used to honor “Big Red” this year was the addition of blue roses to the traditional blanket of white carnations awarded to the winner, reminiscent of the famous blue and white checkerboard silks of Secretariat’s owner, Meadow Stable.
Antonucci noted the parallels between Arcangelo and Secretariat, whose owner Penny Chenery was an outspoken advocate for the involvement of women in the sport.
“There were so many odd, little nuances throughout the week that felt like we were where we were supposed to be,” said Antonucci. “I was not being cocky about it, but there was just too much about it that said it was his space and time to do it. Blue roses for Secretariat, like the name of the owner, we drew post 3 with the blue saddle towel. He wears silks with blue. And 50 years since Secretariat and all that Mrs. Chenery brought to this game. If you believe in any of that kind of stuff, you’ve got to lean into it. It gives you this big hug to be able to go and do it. Those are the things I’ve enjoyed this week.”
The win was especially sentimental for Castellano, who has lived in nearby Garden City for over 20 years and has ridden in the Empire State for just as long. The Venezuela native had finished second in the Belmont Stakes on three occasions - all by narrow margins, including a three-quarter length loss aboard Stay Thirsty to Ruler On Ice in 2011; a head defeat to Tonalist in 2014 when piloting 28-1 shot Commissioner; and a nose defeat to Creator in 2016 aboard Destin.
The 45-year-old veteran rider, a dual Grade 1 Preakness winner, said completing a personal Triple Crown this year has been a defining moment in his Hall of Fame career.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Castellano. “I’m blessed and thankful to win two Triple Crown races in one year. Everyone wants the Kentucky Derby and chases it, but I [feel that way] especially about the Belmont. This is the big one for us. This is the race my kids are asked about – ‘your dad is a jockey, has he won the Belmont?’ I’m just so happy for my family and they can go around town and say their dad won the Belmont Stakes. You feel good when people recognize your hard work. Thank God I’ve been successful. I’m very happy. Jena and the team did such a good job with this horse.”
Like his Belmont victory, Arcangelo’s trip to Grade 1 glory was attained with patient, even-headed handling, allowing him to take the time he needed to grow beyond the rangy yearling he was when purchased for $35,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
“There are some things that are much bigger than you are, and you can’t chase those things,” said Antonucci. “You’ve got to sit in the pocket, let things unfold and let things happen. I think when you do that, it makes it that much more amazing.”
With Arcangelo’s dam being the Tapit mare Modeling, a $2.85 million 2-year-old herself, his frugal purchase price was made even more baffling by the fact that his third dam, Better Than Honour, produced two Belmont Stakes winners in Jazil  and Rags to Riches .
Jon Ebbert, owner of Blue Rose Farm, said Arcangelo was an unexpected acquisition.
“I was actually looking to buy a horse for a pinhook, but I had to have him and I bought him even though I really wasn’t looking for him,” said Ebbert. “I knew he was going to take time and be a project and was hoping he’d grow the right way. He came into his own a little quicker than I expected. It’s been amazing. I thought he needed more time, but he told us differently.”
Ebbert explained Arcangelo is the perfect horse to bear his stable name, which is derived from the idea that campaigning horses like him is like catching lightning in a bottle.
“I needed a name, and I was thinking of roses for the Kentucky Derby, which is every owner’s dream. A blue rose is impossible, it doesn’t happen in nature,” explained Ebbert, who fell in love with horse racing as a child attending the Kentucky Derby. “So, it symbolizes trying to achieve the impossible. It was just meant to be.”
Mott has an embarrassment of riches with Cody’s Wish and Elite Power
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has a dilemma to resolve and it’s where to run his multiple Grade 1 winners Cody’s Wish and Elite Power next on the road back to defend their respective championships in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November.
Juddmonte Farm’s Elite Power, the 2022 Eclipse Award-winning Male Sprinter, dominated the Grade 2 True North on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes undercard. It was the 5-year-old son of Curlin’s seventh straight win. Cody’s Wish won his sixth straight race and overshadowed the competition in the Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap with his 3 1/4-length triumph.
The Met Mile win gave Godolphin’s Cody’s Wish, also a 5-year-old Curlin horse, a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita in November through the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series.
What will they do for an encore? It appears a battle royale between the stable stars could be shaping up at Saratoga this summer in the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses on August 26.
“They could possibly run against each other in the Forego. That would be the only race I could conceive,” Mott said on Sunday morning. “The timing of that race and the distance, it would be back to seven furlongs for Cody’s Wish and up to seven eights for Elite Power. I could see it happening. I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Elite Power is on track to the Spa’s Grade 1, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 29, providing all stays on course.
“I think the most logical for him is the Alfred G. Vanderbilt. It’s a Grade 1 sprint at six furlongs and between that and the Forego up there you’ve got two good races. The Forego would be a possibility for Cody’s Wish, too. It just depends on what we do with Cody’s Wish next time. We’ll have to work that out as we go along,” Mott said.
The Grade 1, $1 million Whitney at 1 1/8 miles on August 5 isn’t out of the question for Cody’s Wish either, according to his trainer, though his ideal distance seems to be one-mile.
“He’s won several races at the mile distance. He’s won at the one-turn mile and at a two-turn mile. He’s never won beyond a mile. Those are some of the challenges that we face now with where we go and what race we’re going to run in. That will be under discussion over the next month,” said Mott.
What is not up for debate is what winning the Met Mile means to Mott. This stallion-making race, one of the most prestigious among all run in North America, was one of the very few blanks on the Hall of Famer’s incredibly impressive resume. Before Saturday he had saddled 13 horses in the Met Mile for a record of 0-0-3.
“We’ve been able to score in a lot of the bigger races, and the Met Mile was certainly one I’ve been really wanting to win for a long time,” Mott said.
“Because I’ve spoken about it so often, I’ve said it over and over this is a race I wanted to win. I guess when the words come out of your mouth it’s public knowledge you want to win it. Well, we got it done yesterday. It’s a big deal for sure.
“For me, and to take nothing away from the Belmont Stakes because we did that already [Drosselmeyer, 2010], the Met Mile was something that had eluded me for years, and I’ve run some really nice horses in the Met Mile, and I’d never been able to connect as a trainer so I was thrilled,” he continued.
“This is something I’d wanted to do and I’m glad it was Cody’s Wish who carried us to the winner’s circle. He’s a very nice horse. He’s a very good horse. He is a horse with the highest level of quality. He ranks right up there with some good ones.”
As for enjoying that embarrassment of riches in his barn, Mott laughingly said, “Yeah, because they’ll all be retired soon enough. I’ll be down to Mr. T [the stable pony] over there and looking for a race to win.”
Cody’s Wish, Elite Power, and Poppy Flower, who gave Mott his first win in the 10th running of the Grade 3 Intercontinental on Friday’s card, left Belmont Park early Sunday morning and were vanning to Mott’s division in Saratoga.
“They all came back fine from their races. Everybody is doing good,” he said.
G1 Travers the long term goal for G1 Belmont Stakes runner-up Forte, third-place finisher Tapit Trice
With the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets now in the rearview mirror, Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course in mind for Forte and Tapit Trice, who finished a respective second and third in Saturday’s “Test of the Champion.”
Pletcher, a four-time Belmont Stakes winner, said both horses would be under consideration for either the Grade 1 Haskell on July 22 at Monmouth Park or the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy on July 29 at Saratoga, after each running a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in the Belmont Stakes.
“I think both races would be possible with both horses targeting the Travers, just deciding what we’re going to do leading up to the Travers,” Pletcher said. “We’ll just give it a couple weeks, see how they come out of it, how they’re training and go from there.”
Sent off as the 2-1 post time favorite, Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s 2022 Champion 2-Year-Old Colt Forte established fifth position heading into the first turn, lost a touch of ground around the far turn and made a late closing kick in deep stretch to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Arcangelo.
The Belmont Stakes was Forte’s first start since capturing the Grade 1 Florida Derby on April 1 at Gulfstream Park, where he defeated next out Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Mage by one length. The effort came one month after defeating Mage in the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth over the same track. Such credentials made Forte the Kentucky Derby favorite, but he was scratched the morning of the race with a bruised foot.
Pletcher expressed satisfaction in the son of Violence’s effort, especially considering the time in between races.
“That was a key part of the race,” Pletcher said of Forte’s trip around the far turn. “He lost a little bit of position around the three-eighths pole and had to swing out five to six wide around the same time the winner [Arcangelo] cut the corner. That was sort of the difference there, but all things considered, first time out in ten weeks going a mile and a half. It was a big effort. I think Forte’s body of work is impressive. He beat the Kentucky Derby winner in the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby. He came with a big effort despite not having an ideal schedule leading into it.”
Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable’s Tapit Trice was five to six wide down the backstretch and launched his bid around the far turn under coaxing from Luis Saez. He made up some ground in the final furlong, but could not catch Arcangelo while being nosed out of place honors by Forte to his outside.
“We wanted to get him into the clear and get him under that rhythm,” Pletcher said. “I thought going into the far turn that he had a big chance. He stayed on and kept on fighting until the end. It seemed like he was emboldened a little bit when Forte came up outside of him. It was a good effort, he just didn’t quite get there.”
Pletcher continued to speak volumes of Forte for overcoming the adversity of contesting an endurance-testing race like the Belmont Stakes off ten week’s rest.
“Sometimes when you get off schedule like we did, it’s not always easy to get back on,” Pletcher said. “Thankfully, we were able to get this race and, hopefully, set him up for the rest of the year.”
Pletcher also conditioned Forte’s sire Violence, whose promising racing career was cut short when injured following a second-place effort in the 2013 Fountain of Youth.
“Physically they’re very similar horses,” Pletcher said. “He’s clearly a son of Violence when you look at him. Both are very talented and good-minded horses. Violence was unfortunately injured in the Fountain of Youth and I feel like his full potential was never seen. He’s turned out to be a terrific stallion now.”
Not all was lost on Belmont Stakes Day for Pletcher, who saddled Up to the Mark and Emmanuel to graded stakes scores on the undercard.
Up to the Mark, owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, earned his second straight Grade 1, capturing the 10-furlong Manhattan by 2 3/4 lengths under Irad Ortiz, Jr. The son of Not This Time earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for the winning effort, which came five weeks following a victory in Churchill Downs’ Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic on May 6.
“I thought he was very impressive again,” Pletcher said. “It was his first time at a mile and a quarter, so we were confident he would handle it, but it’s always good when they can prove it in the afternoon. He’s starting to figure it out. He settled really well and was ready when called upon.”
With two Grade 1 triumphs under his belt, Up to the Mark has established himself amongst the top in the turf division. Pletcher mentioned the possibility of targeting the Grade 1, $1 million Arlington Million on August 12 at Colonial Downs, while adding that the horse could be campaigned toward either the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile or the 12-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, both on November 4 at Santa Anita.
“I think that’s what we have to figure out as we start thinking about potential Breeders’ Cup races down the road,” Pletcher said. “I think he’s one of those horses that could go in the Mile or the Turf. But I think the Arlington Million and a mile and a quarter is a race to look at.”
WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s Emmanuel earned a career-high 100 Beyer when capturing the Grade 3 Poker going one mile over the Widener turf course. The son of More Than Ready entered off a close third in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Dinner Party on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course, but Pletcher did not rule out a stretch in distance next out.
“He’s always been a horse with a lot of potential,” Pletcher said. “He’s come back this year very well. He’s another one that you could probably look at multiple distances with. I think it’s something to consider.”
Pletcher mentioned the Arlington Million for Emmanuel as well as Saratoga’s Grade 3, $175,000 Kelso on July 15 going one mile or the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green on July 30 at 11 furlongs.
BSRF-winners In Italian and Marketsegmentation could square off in G1 Diana
Trainer Chad Brown’s pair of Belmont Stakes Racing Festival Grade 1 winners, In Italian and Marketsegmentation, could clash at Saratoga in the nine-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 Diana on July 15 at Saratoga Race Course.
“In Italian came out of her run very well and so did Marketsegmentation,” Brown said. “They’re both going to head to the Diana.”
Both gate-to-wire winners, Peter Brant’s In Italian won the one-mile $500,000 Just a Game with Irad Ortiz, Jr., and Klaravich Stables’ Marketsegmentation annexed the $600,000 New York with Jose Ortiz.
Pretty Mischievous possible for G1 CCA Oaks
The Brendan Walsh-trained Pretty Mischievous, who became Godolphin’s 400th Group/Grade 1 winner when taking Friday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Acorn, has exited her second top-level victory in good form.
Walsh said the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 22 at Saratoga Race Course remains on the 3-year-old filly divisional leader’s radar, with the conditioner hesitant to map out much beyond this past weekend.
“She’s come out of it well,” Walsh said. “I’m not looking much beyond Friday, to be honest.”
Godolphin upped the total to 401 with the Bill Mott-trained Cody’s Wish in the Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on Saturday.
Walsh also mentioned that SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan’s Gilmore could stay in New York in lieu of returning to Kentucky and point to the Grade 3, $200,000 Dwyer, a one-turn mile on July 1 here.
“Gilmore may stick around for the Dwyer. We have to see how he comes out from yesterday,” Walsh said.
The stone-gray son of Twirling Candy was a good third in Saturday’s Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, beaten 2 1/2-lengths by Arabian Lion, with 7 1/4-lengths back to fourth. The effort was his third consecutive graded stakes-placing.
Caravel earns 102 BSF for G1 Jaipur conquest against males
Qatar Racing, Marc Detampel and Madaket Stables’ 6-year-old mare Caravel extended her win streak to five with a driving three-quarter-length triumph in Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Jaipur at Belmont Park, scoring a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for her third lifetime victory against males.
Trained by two-time Eclipse Award-winner Brad Cox, Caravel notched her second lifetime Grade 1 coup, adding to a breakout score in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at odds of 42-1 in November at Keeneland. The daughter of Mizzen Mast earned a berth into that event again this year at Santa Anita for her win in the Jaipur as part of the “Win and You’re In” qualifying series.
“Se came back good and will ship back to Kentucky tomorrow,” said Cox. “It was a big run to beat the boys again and she’s obviously very good. I don’t know where we’ll go from here, but obviously the Breeders’ Cup is the target.”
The Pennsylvania-bred Caravel first flashed her talents with a win in the 2021 Grade 3 Caress at Saratoga Race Course when in the care of breeder, trainer and co-owner Elizabeth Merryman. She finished the year with trainer Graham Motion, but found her best stride the following season when transitioning to the Cox barn last March. Since then, she has logged Grade 3 victories in Belmont’s Intercontinental and Keeneland’s Franklin, as well as a Grade 2 win in the Shakertown against males in April at Keeneland.
Cox said Caravel’s abilities have come as a pleasant surprise.
“At the age of 6, she has took off since last fall. She’s been very consistent, and that’s tough in turf sprinting,” said Cox. “She’s quick away from the gate and she’s able to stay on. She has surprised us a little bit and was able to win the Breeders’ Cup on short rest. We gave her a little break after that and she responded very well to that.”
Cox added that each of his runners from this week, including Belmont Stakes participants Angel of Empire, Hit Show [dead heat for fourth] and Tapit Shoes [ninth] all emerged well from their efforts and will return to Kentucky. The former two posted their fourth-place finishes after stalking in mid-pack while the latter attended the pace set by National Treasure and faded in the turn to finish last-of-9.
“So far, so good,” said Cox. “No real excuses. Physically, they all look fine – tired, but fine. They’ll ship back to Churchill tomorrow and we’ll give them a week or so to recover and come up with a game plan. Hit Show and Angel of Empire stayed on steady enough and I’m proud of both of their efforts. Tapit Shoes was probably a little overmatched, but he came out of it good and Jose [Ortiz] did the right thing taking care of him late.”
Cox also reported that Bubble Rock [Grade 3 Intercontinental, 2nd], Strobe [Grade 2 True North, 3rd], Warrant [Grade 2 Brooklyn, 4th] and Victory Formation [Grade 1 Woody Stephens, 7th] all emerged well from their efforts with all but Bubble Rock heading for Kentucky tomorrow.
“They’re all good,” said Cox. “Bubble Rock will stay here and point for something at Saratoga.”
$150K Birdstone is 'Next' for G2 Brooklyn winner
Michael A. Foster's Next posted a powerful frontrunning performance under Luan Machado to capture Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Brooklyn, a 12-furlong marathon for older horses over Big Sandy.
Trained by William 'Doug' Cowans, the 5-year-old Not This Time gelding led through splits of 24.37 seconds, 50.02, 1:16.12 and 1:41.62, opening up by six lengths at the stretch call and stayed on strong down the lane to win by 2 1/4-lengths over Calibrate in a final time of 2:31.01. The prominent effort earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.
The 48-year-old Cowans credited Machado, who has piloted Next to three wins in his last four starts, for metering out Next's speed.
"He's very good with that and that reflects in the morning too when he’s breezing horses. He knows right where the horse is at and how quick they’re going," Cowans said. "The horse has an uncanny amount of stamina. I think it's why he enjoys these longer races. He really likes to get into a rhythm with everything that he does, not just racing - even galloping or walking in the shed row. Once he gets in that rhythm, he gets really focused. The longer races helped that with the tempo a little bit slower and once he's in that rhythm, he keeps on motoring."
Next made his first 10 starts for trainer Wesley Ward, launching his career in June 2020 with an off-the-board effort in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight over the Woodbine Tapeta. He broke through at third asking in an off-the-turf route at Keeneland later that year, but found his best stride on the lawn where he captured the one-mile War Chant at Churchill Downs.
Cowans haltered the three-time grass winner for $62,500 from an off-the-board effort in a one-mile optional-claimer last March over the Turfway Park synthetic.
While Ward trainees are arguably best known for their success in sprint races, Cowans said he had other plans for Next once he got to know the grey gelding.
"The horse does have speed, it's just the way you use it with him," Cowans said. "I had watched him all last winter here and I loved the way the horse moved. When I claimed him, I did not have this idea of running him in marathon races - that came after spending a little time with the horse. But he's a horse I really liked and when I saw him in for a tag, I wanted to go after him."
Cowans entered Next in a nine-furlong turf route last May at Churchill first off the claim and he responded with a frontrunning score under Brian Hernandez, Jr. while racing for a $50,000 tag.
"He'd shown his better races on the grass, but he ran so bad the day I claimed him. He got in a speed duel that," Cowans said. "So, I thought let's stretch him out and put him back on the grass and go from there. The day he won, I though this horse might go a little bit further knowing what I did about his works."
Cowans and Hernandez, Jr. were convinced that Next, who is out of the multiple stakes-placed Awesome Again mare Bahia Beach, moved equally well on both turf and dirt and came to the conclusion that entering in turf races might benefit the horse.
"We thought that might be a good angle that any time it rained, it would come off and he'd run against a bunch of turf horses on the dirt," Cowans said.
On September 8 at Delaware Park, the 12-furlong Cape Henelopen was taken off-the-turf and Next romped to an 18 1/4-length score that garnered a 100 Beyer - his first triple-digit figure.
He followed with a frontrunning romp in the 1 5/8-mile Grade 2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on November 4 at Keeneland while competing on the Breeders' Cup Friday undercard. That effort, which garnered a 105 Beyer, cemented Next's status as a marathoner and will see the horse continue on a path towards the $150,000 Birdstone, a 1 3/4-mile test on July 27 at Saratoga Race Course.
"It's been a good ride with the horse," said Cowans, who oversees as many as 60 horses split evenly between Turfway Park and The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington. "The Birdstone is the plan and it's been the plan since the horse won at the Breeders' Cup last year."
Arabian Lion, National Treasure in good order following their respective Grade 1 efforts
Zedan Racing Stable’s Arabian Lion earned a career-best 109 Beyer Speed Figure for his 1 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who also saddled National Treasure to a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
Arabian Lion and National Treasure, stabled with trainer John Terranova, emerged from their respective efforts in good order according to Terranova’s wife and assistant Tonja.
“They both looked great this morning. They ate up last night and had no problems at all,” said Tonja Terranova.
Baffert said following Arabian Lion’s 1 3/4-length conquest that the son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify could target the Grade 1 Haskell on July 22 at Monmouth Park with a return to the Empire State for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 26 at Saratoga in mind.
National Treasure entered the Belmont Stakes from a frontrunning score in the Grade 1 Preakness on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course.
Via Twitter, co-owner SF Racing’s managing partner Tom Ryan said National Treasure, “scoped clean last night and has pulled up in great shape this morning. There was just enough early-pace pressure that he clocked 47.3 for the half and didn't see out the mile and a half. He will now head back to HQ - Santa Anita and reset.”
G1 Ogden Phipps-winner Clairiere in search of year-end honors
Just like the fine wine she is named for, Clairiere gets better with age.
The Stonestreet Stables homebred Clairiere, whom Barbara Banke named after the lush pinot noir produced at one of the 40 wineries she owns in the Jackson Family Wines portfolio, on Saturday won the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps for the second straight year with a courageous late rally to get up just in time.
“We’ve been very blessed to have her and have had extraordinary fillies and mares like [Champions] Rachel Alexandra, Untapable and Midnight Bisou over the years, but you cannot compare racehorses because what defines them is how they step up to their competition and who they are on the racetrack,” Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen said of the 5-year-old mare. “The uniqueness about Clairiere is her pedigree. For her to win the Ogden Phipps two years in a row, and that being a race that her mother Cavorting won , wow. The uniqueness of that speaks volumes.”
Clairiere is by Curlin, whom Asmussen trained to back-to-back Horse of the Year Honors in 2007-08.
“What Curlin represents in horse racing, the durability and the excellence is unmatched. It’s impossible for me to put into words what Curlin means to me,” he said. “It’s all in the family, absolutely. It makes it that much more special.”
Asmussen said the long-term goal is to bring Clairiere back to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November at Santa Anita, which she qualified for with the Phipps win through the “Win and You’re In” Challenge series, in hopes of improving upon her third-place finish behind eventual Champion Older Dirt Female Malathaat last year.
The mid-range goal is the Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign on August 25 at Saratoga, a race in which she ran fifth to Malathaat last year.
The short-term plan has yet to be formulated.
“I would expect her to have another run before the Personal Ensign. I will discuss it with Barbara and the whole Stonestreet team once we get her moved to Saratoga and into her regular training regimen we will make that decision,” said Asmussen, who reported that the mare was came back from her race in fine form.
David Donk remembers Woody Stephens and his five consecutive Belmont Stakes wins
On the 50th anniversary of the immortal Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, the spotlight is on the extraordinary achievement of “Big Red” and his connections, and rightly so.
Nonetheless, on the morning after the 155th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA, the remarkable accomplishment of the legendary Woody Stephens training five consecutive Belmont winners- Conquistador Cielo , Caveat , Swale , Crème Fraiche , and Danzig Connection  - is also worthy of note.
This is a record that almost certainly will never be equaled, never be broken.
Trainer David Donk was the assistant to the Hall of Fame horseman from 1985-1990, and remembers him well.
“Woody ate, slept, and breathed horse racing. He was a phenomenal person. It was late in his career when I was around him but I knew I was working for a legend in his own time,” said Donk. “It was a dream for me to be able to work for him. It was being with the best horses, the best clients, and the best of everything.”
Donk said during his time with Stephens he received an invaluable education, “For a kid that didn’t go to college, I went to one of the best universities.”
One of the lessons Donk learned from Stephens was how to deal with the media and how to treat everyone with equal respect, whether he be Daily Racing Form’s Joe Hirsch, the late dean of turf writers, or someone working for the smallest newspaper. Others were those that can only be learned from a legend.
“I will always say in life there’s no such thing as the best. But he is one of the best horsemen, undoubtedly,” said his former assistant.
As time goes by events can fade in memory, but icons like Secretariat and Stephens never lose their place in history.
“To explain to someone today how long ago it’s been since he won five Belmonts, not just five but five in a row…That’s one of the great records, like Joe DiMaggio’s or Bob Baffert’s [Kentucky] Derby wins,” Donk said. “We talk about Secretariat and it’s fifty years, although it doesn’t seem like it. But the fact that Woody won all those Belmonts is always going to come up.”
Stephens was as hands on as they come. He knew every inch of each horse under his care.
“It was a different style of training then. Woody only carried 36 horses at one time. We had barns number three and four at Belmont and each barn had 18 stalls. That was size of his stable. It’s not the same today as it was thirty years ago,” said Donk, who to this day has only stabled at Saratoga in barn 85, where all five Belmont winners were bedded down. “It was different then. Here at Belmont, there were 18 older horses in barn three and 18 two-year-olds in barn four. That was it.”
Donk said Stephens had an uncanny sixth sense about horses.
“Training was different then. They were a lot harder on horses. They pushed them a lot more,” Donk said. “He taught me detail and to pay attention it, to what you liked and didn’t like today, from the time they cleaned up their feed tub, how they acted in the stall, how they were when you pulled them out of the stall. He taught me how to watch how happy the horse is and his demeanor is.”
Woody Stephens once wrote a book entitled “I Guess I’m Lucky.” The title is apropos.
“I guess I’m lucky, too. The biggest break I ever got in my career was to get th