Katsumi Yoshizawa's homebred Master Fencer, an eye-catching sixth in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Koichi Tsunoda, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.21 under Julien Leparoux on Wednesday morning in his final prep for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets slated for Saturday, June 8 at Belmont Park.
The Japanese-bred son of Just a Way warmed up on the training track ahead of the timed breeze on Big Sandy.
“First, we went to the training track to warm up and then we went and stood in the gate for a little bit. He was good at the gate and then we went to breeze,” said Leparoux. “He felt good. He's got stronger from when I was on him in Kentucky. It was a good breeze and I'm excited about the race on Saturday.”
A start in the Belmont Stakes will make Master Fencer eligible for NYRA's $1 million bonus offered to any Japan-based winner of New York's most prestigious race.
Introduced for the 2017 Triple Crown season, the entire $1 million bonus would be awarded to the winning Japanese horse's connections in addition to the $800,000 winner's share of the purse for the last and longest leg of the Triple Crown.
If successful, it would also be the first Belmont Stakes score for Leparoux, who has developed a strong bond with the chestnut.
“He's very easy to be around. He's a kind horse and very calm and professional. It makes my job easy,” said Leparoux.
Leparoux said the late-closing Master Fencer will need some pace to chase on Saturday.
“We will need some racing luck. A lot depends on the pace in front and how the track plays, but we'll give it a good race,” said Leparoux.
Post time for the Belmont Stakes is scheduled for approximately 6:37 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 8 (7:37 a.m. JST on Sunday, June 11) and will be broadcast live on NBC.
With the 151st running of the Belmont Stakes as its centerpiece, the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, from June 6-8, will include 18 stakes races over the three days including eight Grade 1 races on Belmont Stakes Day, June 8.
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