Hall of Fame trainer D Wayne Lukas said Sunday morning that he expects to take Preakness runner-up Bravazo to New York to the complete the Triple Crown cycle in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
Calumet Farm's Bravazo, Preakness sixth-place finisher Sporting Chance and Lukas' stable pony were on the van that left Pimlico well before dawn for the return trip to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. As usual, Lukas, 82, was riding in the cab of the truck pulling the horse van.
As Lukas predicted in the days leading up to the Preakness, Bravazo improved from his sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with a strong performance in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. He closed to finish second by a half-length to Justify and was a neck in front of Tenfold.
“I was very, very pleased with the way he woke up this morning,” Lukas said. “He was very sharp and we made a few turns around the shedrow. He was very sharp. That part was excellent.
“I just loved the way he ran. We'd like to have won it, but I think we needed another 15 yards and maybe we could have gotten it done,” he added. “After studying the video we were running the fastest of any of them at the end.”
Lukas said he had spoken with Calumet Farm owner Brad Kelley about going on to the Belmont for another rematch with Justify.
“Mr. Kelley wants to and I'd like to take him,” Lukas said. “He's a tough little horse and I think his pedigree will let him run that far. So we'll take him on and see what happens.”
Lukas said that Sporting Chance will get a break and then be prepared for some racing at Saratoga.
Though Bravazo was the 15-1 fifth choice in the wagering in the field of eight, Lukas was not surprised that he turned in a big performance. From the moment he arrived at Pimlico, Lukas said that the Derby winner Justify, trained by his pal Bob Baffert, stood over the field.
“I really thought he would run big,” Lukas said. “Bob and I talked and I thought Bob's horse was definitely going to be a tough horse to beat. But I felt that we would really keep him honest. All week I thought we had a horse that would respond back in two weeks, which he did. I just felt that we would make it really interesting, and we did.”
Lukas chuckled at the suggestion that he was satisfied with Bravazo's run in the Preakness.
“If you can be satisfied with second, I am,” he said. “I'm so competitive that second is not good enough in my mindset, but having said that, if you can handle second, it was a damn good one.”
Happy with Tenfold's third-place finish in the Preakness Stakes, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said the colt owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds is a candidate for the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
“We are definitely considering it. I did decide to move him back to Churchill,” Asmussen said as the colt was prepped for a van ride to Louisville, Ky. “I want to feel as good going into the Belmont as we were coming into here, that you would fire your best shot.”
Asmussen said he expected to take his time and will make his decision on the Belmont about a week before the race.
Tenfold, making his first start since finishing fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 14, was the longest shot in the field at 26-1. He made a strong run in the fog-obscured second turn and was in position to challenge the leaders, Justify and Good Magic, in the stretch when the horses came back into view. Justify held off Bravazo by a half-length and Tenfold was a neck back.
“I was, obviously, pleased with his effort,” Asmussen said. “With the way the race unfolded in the fog, it was extremely difficult to truly assess everything that happened because we saw so little.”
Tenfold was a late-developing horse and did not run at 2. He won twice at Oaklawn Park and he had a promising performance in the Arkansas Derby that wasn't good enough to get him to the Kentucky Derby. Asmussen said he was concerned about the way the Preakness was unfolding in the first run through the stretch.
“I thought he would be a little closer,” Asmussen said. “He worked himself into a great position down the backside when they went into the turn and out of view. Then what did we see, the last between eighth and sixteenth of the mile of the race? He was beaten three-quarters in the Preakness. The horse has a tremendous frame and physical (build) and is a great mover. I think there are very good things ahead for him.”
Asmussen's stable had a very successful weekend – winning four stakes to go with two seconds and two thirds – and he earned the $50,000 trainer's stakes-race bonus for the second straight year. Asmussen had 82 points. Graham Motion was second with 45 points and earned $25,000.
Cash is King, LC Racing and D.J. Stable's multiple stakes winner Diamond King emerged from his seventh-place finish in the Preakness in good order, trainer John Servis said Sunday morning.
“He came out good, very good. He didn't look any worse for wear,” Servis said. “It was a big assignment for him, but we got through it. The winner was certainly no surprise.”
Diamond King raced between horses early and, after bumping slightly with eventual third-place finisher Tenfold, made a bit of a run off the rail into the far turn before finishing evenly under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, beaten a 12 ¼ lengths.
“[Castellano] had to use him a little bit to get position early on and when it came time to quicken, he picked it up but he said he just couldn't keep up,” Servis said. “I couldn't see much. Between the people and the fog, it was hard to see anything. We knew what we were up against going in; that was no secret.”
In 2004, Servis took an undefeated Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to New York, where the popular Smarty Jones was tested all the way around the racetrack and wound up second by a length to 36-1 long shot Birdstone in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Justify remained perfect at 5-0 following his half-length victory Saturday.
“It takes a special horse. Justify had to work hard yesterday,” Servis said. “He looked good last night when he walked by me, but I can tell you from experience they'll be firing bullets at him at Belmont. Especially with the speed he's shown, I guarantee you they're already looking for rabbits.”
Diamond King returned to Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa. Sunday and Servis said he would be pointed to either the Ohio Derby (G3) June 23 at Thistledown or the Indiana Derby (G3) July 14 at Indiana Grand. Both races carry a $500,000 purse.
“We have a schedule mapped out for him. We'll see how he comes out of it and whether we're going to stick to that schedule or go a different route,” he said. “As long as he comes out of it good and he's training good, I think either the Ohio Derby or the Indiana Derby is probably going to be his next start.”
Trainer Tom Amoss reported that no decision has been made whether Lone Sailor, the fifth-place Preakness finisher, will run in the Belmont.
“It's way too early to think about the Belmont,” Amoss said. “The horse came back fine and he's on his way to Kentucky.”
Quip, who finished last after bobbling at the start of the Preakness, was in fine condition Sunday morning, reported trainer Rodolphe Brisset. The son of Distorted Humor was scheduled to return to Keeneland.
Good Magic, who finished fourth, less than a length behind Justify, returned to Belmont Park Sunday morning but is not expected to run in the Belmont Stakes.
“The horse got in about 9:30 and so far the horse looks good,” said trainer Chad Brown. “We put him in a difficult situation in the race and he did the best he could. “It was tough circumstances where he was in the race but that's horse racing. He tried hard.”
The Haskell at Monmouth Park or the Jim Dandy at Saratoga will be targeted.
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