Trainer Danny Gargan was looking for an easy move out of graded stakes winner Tax on Saturday morning and that's exactly what he got as the 3-year-old gelded son of Arch went a half-mile in 49.80 seconds over the Belmont Park training track.
Under mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the early 60's, Gargan sent Tax to the training track at 7:40 a.m. on Saturday morning as he recorded his first serious work since a 14th place effort in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs.
“It was just a maintenance work, I wanted a nice easy work,” Gargan said. “He gallops out like he always does, nice and strong. We worked him by himself so he wouldn't go too fast.
“When he was in company, he grabs the bridle and works more impressive but today we just wanted to keep him going forward. We'll come back next week and work him and get a stronger breeze in him. Hopefully we can work on Saturday next week. I'll work him with another horse next week, so he gets a lot more out of it.”
Gargan stated that Tax is pointing towards the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 8.
“That's what we're pointing for; we're aiming for that. If everything goes as planned that's where we'll run,” said Gargan.
Tax's energy level following the 'Run for the Roses' was good according to Gargan. He stayed on the rail throughout the Derby but was not a factor following the eventual disqualification of Maximum Security. In six career starts, it was the only off-the-board effort for Tax, who won the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct before a runner-up placing in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets.
“We didn't do much running in the Derby. I expected the track to be sealed tight so I told him to stay on the inside and they harrowed it and it was kind of a disaster,” Gargan said. “We didn't do that right thing by getting on the rail when it was so deep. It is what it is and we'll just move on to the next race. Hopefully the Belmont will be a good track that day and we can show that we can run with these horses.”
Owned by R A Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable, Tax was bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farms and Adele Dilschnieder. He is out of the Giant's Causeway broodmare Toll and comes from the same family as two-time Grade 1 winning millionaire Elate.
Following a stakes triumph in the Long Branch at Monmouth Park two Saturdays ago, trainer Greg Sacco stated that Joevia is possible for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 8.
Owned by Jeff and Michael Fazio, the 3-year-old son of Shanghai Bobby went gate to wire in the 1 1/16-mile Long Branch over a sloppy track, where be recorded a career best 89 Beyer Speed Figure.
Joevia recorded his first work since the Long Branch on Saturday morning and went a half-mile in 48.80 over the Monmouth Park main track. Prior to the Long Branch, Joevia raced in the Wood Memorial where he crossed the wire seventh but was disqualified to last due to interference caused in the first turn.
“He worked well this morning, cooled out great, scoped well,” Sacco said. “He'll have one more work next Saturday. He's not definite [for the Belmont Stakes] but we'll talk it over with the owners and make a decision. It was nice to get him back into the win column, after the sort of disaster he caused in the Wood. We know he's a better colt than that. He's still learning and improving with each start.”
A first out graduate over a sloppy main track at Monmouth last July, Joevia was twice stakes placed following his career debut. He did not race again until the following February but was beaten a neck to Haikal in the Jimmy Winkfield at Aqueduct. He then raced back a month later in Laurel Park's Private Terms Stakes where he was a distant second to Alwaysmining.
“It's a talented group of colts, but our colt is talented as well,” Sacco said. “He ran very well in the Long Branch. He trained at Belmont all winter and really went well over the surface, which can be a tricky surface.”
While Sacco is not definite to race Joevia in the Belmont Stakes, he has committed Grade 1 winner Mind Control to the Grade 1 $400,000 Woody Stephens on the undercard.
Owned by Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stable, the 3-year-old son of Stay Thirsty was a 10-1 upset winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga last summer. Last out, he scored at graded stakes caliber once more when taking the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct.
On Friday morning, Mind Control drilled five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Monmouth Park – his fourth work since the Bay Shore.
“He worked super [Friday morning], he galloped out strong,” Sacco said. “We're looking forward to going back to New York with him. He's been training great and really has blossomed these past few months.”
Bred in Kentucky by co-owners Red Oak Stable, Mind Control is out of the stakes winning Lightnin N Thunder broodmare Feel That Fire – a half-sister to recent stakes winner King for a Day.
Katsumi Yoshizawa's homebred Master Fencer, a Japanese-bred son of Just a Way arrived at Belmont Park on Friday evening from Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, where he has trained towards the 1 ½-mile 'Test of a Champion' following his sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
“Today he will just walk and graze. It's a relax day for him. He'll go to the training track and the main track probably tomorrow morning,” racing manager Mitsuoki Numamoto said.
With Julien Leparoux up for the Derby, Master Fencer was last of 19 at third call before launching a menacing bid up the rail to finish seventh, defeated just four lengths. When Maximum Security was disqualified, Master Fencer was elevated to sixth besting the effort of the two previous Japanese-based horses in the Derby topping Lani [9th, 2016] and Ski Captain [14th, 1995].
Numamoto said Master Fencer should appreciate the added distance in the Belmont.
“In Kentucky, after the race, his jockey Julien said, 'I needed one more furlong,'” said Numamoto.
On Saturday, June 8, Master Fencer will have two additional furlongs to demonstrate his late flourish.
“Maybe we wouldn't have beaten Maximum Security and Country House, but he has a strong late kick. His movement is not like a sprinter. We asked Julien last time to please put pressure on him for the last six furlongs. He has a really strong heart,” said Numamoto.
Leparoux will have the return call on Master Fencer in the Belmont.
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