David Fiske has been declaring for months that Winchell Thoroughbreds' Preakness Stakes third-place finisher Tenfold has the best pedigree for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes of any horse in this 3-year-old crop.
“I guess it's put up or shut up,” Fiske, Winchell Thoroughbreds' long-time racing and bloodstock manager, said recently with a laugh. “I've been telling people there's no better-bred Belmont horse in the crop, so we'll see if breeding means anything.”
Tenfold is a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who lost the 2007 Belmont Stakes by inches to the filly Rags to Riches, and is out of a mare by Tapit, who has sired three of the past four Belmont Stakes winners. The year Tapit “missed” in that skein was 2015, when Triple Crown winner American Pharoah beat the Tapit-sired runner-up Frosted.
Curlin had a Belmont Stakes winner in his first crop at stud in 2013 victor Palace Malice, along with third-place finisher Keen Ice in 2015 and 2017 runner-up Irish War Cry.
The Winchell family campaigned Tapit and still retain 50-percent ownership. Because one can never have too many horses by the world's leading sire – even if you already have a dozen of his daughters and breed another six to eight mares a year to him -Temptress was bought as a yearling for $190,000. She never ran in a stakes and was retired after winning an allowance race, but the Winchell operation saw enough to put Temptress in their broodmare band and send her to Curlin.
“At one point we tried to buy part of Curlin,” Fiske said. “We thought he had a lot of upside, so we figured, shoot, if we were willing to buy part of him, I guess we'd be willing to breed to him. So Temptress' number came up.”
Fiske said expectations for Tenfold were “the same as all of our foals: When they're born, they're all Derby winners … until they prove that they're not.
“I don't know if there's a 3-year-old around better bred for the Belmont than he is. He's by a horse that lost the Belmont by a nostril and is one of the top sires in the country, and he's out of a mare who is by arguably the best Belmont sire ever.”
Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen trains Tenfold and also trained his parents.
“I'm extremely excited about that, and have been,” he said. “Temptress was a mare that didn't do as well as she should have on the racetrack over an unfortunate foot injury. But she was just absolutely gorgeous. And with Winchell owning the mare, you can't wait until she has a baby. And then this is what she has. She was just like him: big, beautiful and elegant.”
Asmussen still feels the sting of Curlin's Belmont defeat.
“Can't believe he got beat,” he said recently. “Watching the replay, I keep waiting for him to win. It was meant to be, just like Creator was meant to be.”
Nine years later, Asmussen won the Belmont with WinStar Farm's Creator (by Tapit) by a nose.
Like Curlin, Tenfold did not race at 2. He won his first two starts at Oaklawn Park before finishing fifth in the Arkansas Derby, a race Curlin won before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby and winning the Preakness. After the Arkansas Derby, Tenfold was pointed to the Preakness, which he lost by a total of three-quarters of a length, with an ultimate goal of the Belmont Stakes.
Tenfold galloped once around the Churchill Downs oval Monday morning. Tenfold and the other Asmussen horses participating in the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will leave Churchill Downs in late morning Tuesday for Louisville International Airport, with their Tex Sutton equine flight scheduled to arrive at Long Island MacArthur Airport at 2:15 p.m.
Albaugh Family Stables' Free Drop Billy had a walk day after working five-eighths of a mile in 59 1/5 seconds Sunday. Trainer Dale Romans said the colt will train Tuesday and very early Wednesday before flying to New York, with that flight scheduled to arrive at MacArthur at 12:45 p.m.
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