The morning of May 28 was a busy one for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher as he sent Known Agenda, Bourbonic, and Overtook through their final major paces in preparation for the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 5.
The trio of runners completed their preparations for the third leg of the Triple Crown under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 60s, while dodging heavy rain expected for the Nassau County region on Friday evening.
Arriving at the main track around 8:45 a.m. in the first set after the break, Known Agenda, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, breezed in tandem with stablemate and fellow St. Elias Stable color-bearer Dr Post, ridden by exercise rider Hector Ramos.
NYRA clockers caught the pair through splits of :24.60 and :36.00 with Known Agenda, to the inside, finishing off ahead of his workmate in 1:01.00 while Dr Post completed his five furlongs in 1:01.20.
There were some slightly anxious moments during the breeze as the pair found themselves in behind another pair of workers. Despite the unexpected close company, Pletcher said that neither he nor Ortiz, Jr. were fazed.
“We got caught in behind a couple of horses and they were kind of off the rail and spread out a bit which made it a little tricky,” Pletcher said. “In the end, Irad thought it was good. He said that Known Agenda had more of a target, jumped into the bridle and was on the muscle. He finished up and galloped out well. Dr Post had to eat a little bit of dirt, that’s just kind of the way it worked out. After the break it can be a little bit busy.”
Ninth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby last out, Known Agenda won the Florida Derby (G1) on March 27 at Gulfstream Park with a ground-saving trip from fifth before drawing clear in upper stretch to a 2 ¾-length win. A maiden winner at second asking defeating eventual graded stakes winner Greatest Honour by a head, Known Agenda was fifth in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs before defeating winners at Gulfstream Park by 11 lengths.
“He’s obviously an experienced horse,” Pletcher said. “He’s unfazed. Irad was able to place him where he wasn’t getting much kickback. Dr Post got more of the kickback, so I told Irad to get away from that and hold him out at that point. In his case, it worked out very well. Dr Post, I would have preferred not to take much kickback, but he seemed to handle it fine. Irad liked the way he handled it and so did I. He thought it was a positive. He took a bit (of kickback in the Derby), but not a ton. With the trip he got in the Florida Derby and in Tampa, he’s got plenty of experience, so we aren’t worried about that.”
While Known Agenda targets the Belmont Stakes, Dr Post, second in last year’s running, will point to the Grade 1, $1 million Metropolitan Handicap.
About ten minutes later, Bourbonic and Overtook put the final touches on their Belmont Stakes preparations when caught through an opening quarter-mile in :23.60 before completing the half-mile work in :48.49. The pair galloped out five furlongs in an authoritative 1:00.80. Jockey Manny Franco was aboard Overtook while exercise rider Amelia Green piloted Bourbonic.
A winner of the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at 72-1 odds, Bourbonic finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby and will attempt to give historic Calumet Farm their first Belmont Stakes triumph in 73 years since Citation swept the Triple Crown in 1948.
Pletcher indicated that Bourbonic typically displays a strong gallop out in his works.
“He’s a horse that at times will work like he’s capable of stepping up,” Pletcher said. “The one thing he does is gallop out strongly. He’s always given indications that the distance would suit him.”
Pletcher said he has been particularly impressed with Overtook since his late-closing third in the Grade 3 Peter Pan and that the regally bred son of Curlin has been showing improvement into his next engagement.
“Overtook is historically not an overly ambitious work horse, but I thought he went well this morning,” Pletcher said. “I was looking for him and Bourbonic to just show they have some decent energy. I think his two breezes since the Peter Pan have been better than what we were seeing beforehand, so I’m happy with that.”
Both Bourbonic and Overtook boast pedigrees that should suit the 12-furlong distance, being out of mares sired by Belmont Stakes winners. A son of Bernardini, Bourbonic is out of graded stakes winner Dancing Afleet who is by 2005 Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex. Overtook, by Curlin, is out of Grade 1-winner Got Lucky, a daughter of 1992 Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy.
“The one thing they both have going for them is that they’re bred for the distance. It seems like that should be helpful,” Pletcher said. “(Bourbonic is by) Bernardini and out of an Afleet Alex mare, so there are a lot of Belmont wins in that pedigree. Same thing with Overtook, being by Curlin out of an A.P. Indy mare, it seems that his breeding also should be helpful with the distance.”
A $1 million purchase from the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Overtook is a direct descendant of prestigious broodmares Numbered Account and La Troienne. He is owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable in partnership with Coolmore triumvirate Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith.
A victory with any of his three runners would give Pletcher a fourth Belmont Stakes triumph, putting him on even terms with fellow Hall of Fame inductees Max Hirsch, R.W. Walden and former boss D. Wayne Lukas. Pletcher previously saddled Rags to Riches (2007), Palace Malice (2013), and Tapwrit (2017) to Belmont scores.
Earlier in the morning, Robert and Lawanna Low’s Colonel Liam logged his final work for the Grade 1, $750,000 Manhattan over the Belmont training track. The two-time Grade 1-winning son of third-crop sire Liam’s Map went in company with Promise Keeper as the pair finished off their four-furlong breeze in :48.62 seconds.
“I was very happy with both of them,” Pletcher said. “It was a good, steady breeze for them both. I was particularly pleased with the gallop out. They went well in hand and very relaxed. It’s kind of what we have come to expect from Colonel Liam. It was a good breeze from Promise Keeper as well.”
Woodford Thoroughbreds, WinStar Farm and Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds’ Promise Keeper, a winner of the Grade 3 Peter Pan on May 8, is not in pursuit of the Belmont Stakes, “unless there is a major defection.” Pletcher plans to ship the son of third-crop sire Constitution to Thistledown for the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby on June 26.
Keepmeinmind under consideration for Belmont Stakes
Cypress Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith, and Spendthrift Farm’s Keepmeinmind arrived at Belmont on May 26 with an eye to a potential start in the Belmont Stakes.
Trainer Robertino Diodoro said a decision will be made early next week on whether Keepmeinmind will target the Belmont Stakes or the nine-furlong Ohio Derby on June 26 at Thistledown
“We still haven’t made a 100 percent decision on if we’re going to run in the Belmont,” said Diodoro. “We wanted to make sure that the horse shipped good, which he did. We want to get him a couple days over the track and make sure that he likes the surface, otherwise we’ll sit tight and wait for the Ohio Derby.
“He did train well this morning at Belmont,” added Diodoro. “So, we’ll give it another day or two and then give him a little breeze on Monday.”
The Kentucky-bred son of the late Laoban graduated in style with a last-to-first rush to win the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at fourth asking in November at Churchill Downs to close out his juvenile campaign.
Winless in four sophomore starts, including a fifth in the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass in April at Keeneland, the late-running bay finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and closed to finish fourth last out in the Preakness Stakes (G1) after a troubled start.
Diodoro said Keepmeinmind has been unlucky at the gate on race day and seems to do his best work when making one late run.
“In the mornings, he pops out of the gate like nothing,” said Diodoro. “He’s a laid back horse and I think if we rush him early he won’t have the finish. We tried that in the Blue Grass and when the running started, he just had no kick.”