Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher sent a trio of Belmont Stakes (G1) contenders in Bourbonic, Known Agenda and Overtook to breeze on Big Sandy on May 21 at Belmont Park.
Headlined by the 153rd running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 5, this year’s three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival kicks off on June 3 and will include 17 stakes races in total, with eight Grade 1 races to be contested on Belmont Stakes Day.
Known Agenda, piloted by Irad Ortiz, Jr., worked outside of Metropolitan Handicap (G1) contender Dr Post, with Hall of Famer John Velazquez up, covering five-eighths in 1:02.54 over the fast main track.
“I thought it was a good progressive breeze that should bring them both forward. In particular, I liked the way they galloped out,” said Pletcher. “I had them out in 1:14.4, 1:27.1 and 1:41 for the mile. I thought we accomplished what we were hoping to.”
Known Agenda, winner of the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in March, worked without blinkers. Last out, after leaving the inside post in the Kentucky Derby, the son of Curlin closed from 17th to finish ninth.
“Sometimes he breezes with them, but we’re saving them for the race,” said Pletcher. “Sometimes, you get a little more bang for your buck if you don’t overuse them.”
Known Agenda was a maiden winner at second asking traveling nine furlongs in November at Aqueduct and followed with a third in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes in December.
After finishing fifth in his seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, Pletcher added blinkers to Known Agenda who promptly won an optional-claiming route on February 26 at Gulfstream by a widening 11 lengths ahead of his Florida Derby score.
Dr Post, owned by St. Elias Stable, hit the board in consecutive nine-furlong Grade 1 races last summer when second to Tiz the Law in the Belmont Stakes and third in the Haskell won by Authentic by a nose over Ny Traffic at Monmouth Park.
The Quality Road bay launched his 4-year-old campaign with a prominent score in the Grade 3 Westchester traveling a one-turn mile at Belmont Park on May 1 that garnered a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure.
Pletcher said the colt has demonstrated star qualities.
“He certainly hinted at that last year,” said Pletcher. “He was a good second to Tiz the Law in the Belmont and an unlucky third in the Haskell, in my opinion, to Authentic. His form has certainly held up very well and the break that he got has served him well. He seems to be training as well as ever. I thought his comeback in the Westchester was good and should be a good prep for the Met Mile.”
The Met Mile, part of the loaded Belmont Stakes Day card, is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Del Mar.
Calumet Farm homebred Bourbonic, winner of the Grade 2 Wood Memorial in April, worked a half-mile in company with Overtook in 48.82.
Overtook, with Manny Franco in the irons, worked inside of Bourbonic, guided by exercise rider Hector Ramos.
“They went off a touch quick but finished steadily,” said Pletcher. “I particularly liked the way they galloped out. I had them out seven-eighths in 1:27 and 4. I was pleased.”
Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith’s Overtook graduated at third asking traveling a one-turn mile in December. Following a closing second in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Withers in February at Aqueduct, the son of Curlin returned off the layoff to finish a flat third in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Peter Pan on May 8.
Pletcher said Overtook, a $1 million Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, should appreciate the added distance second time off the shelf.
“He’s a steady, one-run kind of horse and the Peter Pan didn’t develop with much pace. I thought considering that he actually ran pretty well,” said Pletcher. “I think having a race under his belt should help him. Of course, this will be a much more difficult task but he’s well-bred for the distance and we’re hoping that’s the key for him having success.”
Bourbonic, a dark bay Bernardini colt, rallied last-to-first under Kendrick Carmouche at odds of 72-1 to notch a record upset in the nine-furlong Wood Memorial. Last out, the late-running bay exited the outermost post in the 19-horse Kentucky Derby and improved belatedly along the rail to finish 13th.
Woodford Thoroughbreds, WinStar Farm and Rock Ridge Racing’s Promise Keeper, a 2 1/4-length winner of the Peter Pan, worked a half-mile in :48.62 in company with Grade 1 winner Colonel Liam on Belmont’s dirt training track.
Pletcher said Promise Keeper is likely to target the nine-furlong Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby on June 26 at Thistledown, but will keep the Belmont Stakes under consideration.
“He was in company for a half-mile with Colonel Liam in 48 and change. I thought it was a good work,” said Pletcher. “It seems like he’s maintained form since the Peter Pan. Right now we’re leaning towards the Ohio Derby but we wanted to keep him in position to keep an eye on the Belmont. He worked well enough this morning that we’ll continue to keep an eye on it.
“It would be interesting to try him a little further,” added Pletcher. “But right now the Ohio Derby seems to make sense.”
The 3-year-old Constitution colt entered the Peter Pan from a dominant 5 1/2-length score in a nine-furlong optional-claimer on April 8 at Keeneland.
Colonel Liam is pointed to the Grade 1, $700,000 Manhattan Stakes, a 10-furlong turf test for older horses on Belmont Stakes Day.
The 4-year-old Liam’s Map gray is on a four-race win streak that includes scores in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in January at Gulfstream, the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Classic in March at Fair Grounds and the Grade 1 Turf Classic on May 1 at Churchill Downs.
Earlier this week, Shadwell Stable announced they would bypass the chance to compete against males in the Belmont Stakes with undefeated Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Malathaat and instead focus on a pair of Grade 1 targets at Saratoga in the nine-furlong $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 24 and the 10-furlong $600,000 Alabama on August 21.
The Curlin bay, out of Grade 1-winner Dreaming of Julia, captured the Grade 1 Ashland on April 3 at Keeneland in her seasonal debut ahead of a neck score over Search Results in the Kentucky Oaks on April 30 at Churchill Downs.
“She had two good races four weeks apart,” said Pletcher. “Looking at the long term plans, she’d just lost a little weight doing that. We felt while it would certainly be intriguing, and from a talent standpoint she fits with the colts, it just felt a little risky going into the Belmont and if it was a hard race on her we could have potentially lost a couple opportunities with her this summer.”
Pletcher said Malathaat, who completed her juvenile campaign with a Grade 2 Demoiselle win in December at Aqueduct, is a special talent.
“She’s a terrific filly to train. She’s very intelligent and she obviously has loads of talent on top of it,” said Pletcher. “She galloped super this morning. She looks well and is eating well.”
WinStar Farm and CHC Inc.’s Sainthood finished 11th last out in the Kentucky Derby. The dark bay son of Mshawish worked a half-mile in :49.09 last Sunday on the Belmont inner turf.
Pletcher said Sainthood will breeze again on turf this weekend with an eye to a grass debut in the nine-furlong Grade 2, $200,000 Pennine Ridge on May 29.
“I thought he breezed well on the grass,” said Pletcher. “We’ll take him back out there tomorrow for one more turf work. Given his pedigree, we had the turf in mind all along.”
Dynamic One, runner-up in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial, finished 18th in the Kentucky Derby last out. Pletcher said Dynamic One will likely make his return to racing action at Saratoga.
“He’ll probably have his first breeze next week and would most likely have his next start at Saratoga,” said Pletcher. “We just want to freshen him up a little bit after the Derby.”