The list of potential challengers who will try and keep American Pharoah from sweeping the Triple Crown shrunk by two Monday as multiple Grade I winner Carpe Diem and The Truth Or Else were each declared out of Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.
Carpe Diem, 10th in the Kentucky Derby, had worked 4furlongs in 47.66 seconds at Belmont Park on May 29 and fired a bullet move going 5 furlongs on May 22. Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm which co-owns Carpe Diem, said Monday there was nothing major off with the son of Giant’s Causeway but that trainer Todd Pletcher didn’t feel the chestnut colt was coming into the Belmont on top of his game.
“Todd just wasn’t happy with his gallop this morning in the way that he just felt like he’s not 100 percent,” Walden said. “There is nothing major wrong with him, it’s just does he give Todd a feel that he’s going to go over there and run his eyeballs out. And Todd just didn’t feel like he was ready to run a blinder.
“His times for his last two breezes have been great. It was a tough decision but at the same time, it was an instinct or a gut decision. And I’ve always found Todd to be real good with those decisions.”
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Walden added that Carpe Diem will now point for either the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Aug. 1 or the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 2.
“We’ll take the eight weeks and kind of regroup to get him ready,” Walden said.
Owned by WinStar and Stonestreet Stables, Carpe Diem has won four of six career starts including the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 4 in his final prep before the Kentucky Derby. Even with the colt’s defection from the Belmont Stakes, WinStar Farm still has a significant rooting interest as American Pharoah is a son of Pioneerof the Nile, who stands stud at WinStar.
Should American Pharoah win the Belmont, he would become just the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first to achieve the feat since Affirmed in 1978.
“It does (free us up to cheer for him), but that wasn’t a reason (to not run Carpe Diem),” Walden said. “We treat each horse as an individual and make decisions on each horse based on that individuality. It was the right thing for Carpe Diem (to not run). But it is disappointing because we like to have a participant. But we will be rooting very hard for American Pharoah.”
Trainer Ken McPeek took to social media Monday to inform that The Truth Or Else was discovered to have filling in an ankle and would bypass the 1 1/2-miles Belmont. The Truth Or Else has won two of 12 starts with both of those wins coming over the Belmont main track.
“We will give him the time he needs and bring him back when he’s 100 percent,” McPeek posted on his Twitter account. “We believe he did this galloping Saturday.”
With those two defections, the prospective field for the Belmont Stakes on Saturday is now down to eight horses. In addition to American Pharoah, Materiality and Madefromlucky, both trained by Pletcher, are expected to start along with Tale of Verve, Keen Ice, Frosted, Mubtaahij, and Frammento.