Conquest Curlinate, second in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes last time out, will bypass the Belmont Stakes next Saturday and instead point for the Queen's Plate at Woodbine on July 5, his connections confirmed Thursday.
Owned by Conquest Stables and trained by Mark Casse, Conquest Curlinate was not Triple Crown-nominated and would have had to be supplemented for $75,000 into the final leg of the Triple Crown. The son of Curlin put himself into the classic discussion when he finished a length behind winner Madefromlucky in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 9, but Casse said the gray colt hasn't sparkled enough in his training to merit trying to derail Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero American Pharoah's Triple Crown bid in the 11/2-mile test.
"Our feeling is he had to be at his very best to have any shot and we don't think he's bounced out of it that well," Casse said. "We talked about it and instead we'll head to Woodbine with him in a couple weeks for the Queen's Plate."
"We wanted to send a horse (to Belmont) that was doing extremely well," added Norman Casse, assistant to his father. "We were a big long shot to begin with. And he's just not doing as good as we would like so we're going to have to back off him a bit. There is no soundness issue."
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Conquest Curlinate had most recently worked 5 furlongs in 59.80 seconds at Churchill Downs on May 22. He scored his lone win from five career starts when he broke his maiden at Oaklawn Park second time out on Jan. 31. Prior to his Peter Pan outing, Conquest Curlinate finished second in the Grade III Illinois Derby.
Hours after Conquest Curlinate was declared out of the Belmont running, trainer Kenny McPeek confirmed his plans to start graded stakes-placed The Truth Or Else in the 12-furlong classic.
The Truth Or Else sports two wins from 12 career starts with both of those triumphs coming over the Belmont main track. The son of Yes It's True broke his maiden over the surface last Sept. 12 and most recently captured a 11⁄16-mile allowance race there on May 22.
The Truth Or Else is 2-for-4 at Belmont including a third-place finish over a sloppy track in the Grade I Champagne Stakes last October.
"We've always known that he likes Belmont," said McPeek, who memorably upset War Emblem's bid for the Triple Crown in 2002 when he won the Belmont with 70-1 shot Sarava. "I've struggled trying to find the right surface for him and, dry Belmont, he's 2-for-2 over it."
The Truth Or Else has been soundly beaten twice by American Pharoah, finishing fourth behind the champion colt in the Grade II Rebel Stakes and seventh in the Grade I Arkansas Derby. McPeek said he has had the Belmont penciled in since Arkansas, however, and started him on that path by running him in the Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard where he finished fifth.
"We basically used two one-turn races to set him up for this," McPeek said. "I know it's unconventional, but I'm unconventional. American Pharoah might crush us all, but weird things happen over that racetrack."
Edgar Prado, a two-time winner of the Belmont Stakes including piloting Sarava, will have the mount on The Truth Or Else.