WinStar Farm’s Gettysburg, most recently third in an allowance race at Belmont Park May 26, has been transferred to the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen and will be entered in Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.
Gettysburg had been trained by seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher, who is set to saddle Destin and Stradivari in the 1 ½-miles Belmont. With the final leg of the Triple Crown shaping up as a test largely devoid of early speed, the decision was made to enter Gettysburg, who has been on or near the front end in winning one of seven career starts.
Asmussen also trains Creator, a closer, for WinStar Farm. Likely Belmont Stakes favorite Exaggerator, another horse who is expected to come from off the pace, also has a connection to WinStar - he will stand stud at the Kentucky farm upon the conclusion of his racing career.
“When you start talking strategies and a trainer has multiple horses in the race it can get a little confusing sometimes,” Elliott Walden, president and CEO of WinStar Farm, told Daily Racing Form. “The fact Steve has Gettysburg and Creator and we’re his only owner takes out the conflict of having multiple horses in the race for different owners and Todd was 100 percent behind it.”
Paco Lopez is scheduled to ride Gettysburg.
With the addition of Gettysburg, the expected number of entrants for the Belmont Stakes now stands at 13.
Gettysburg’s new stablemate, Creator, put in his final major work for Saturday’s classic, breezing four furlongs in 50.93 over the Belmont training track on Monday. The temperamental son of Tapit completed his first workout since arriving at Belmont, going four furlongs without company with exercise rider Jesus Vinegas aboard. Irad Ortiz Jr. will be in the irons for Creator, who finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby.
“We’re very happy, he worked nice and steady with a good rhythm,” said Toby Sheets, assistant to Asmussen. “He actually loves it here. It’s much quieter than Churchill, so that makes a big difference. His antics are a little less here.”
Suddenbreakingnews has final workout
Belmont Stakes hopeful Suddenbreakingnews was pronounced fit and ready to fire by trainer Donnie Von Hemel after the ridgling turned in his final breeze at Churchill Downs Monday.
With Joe Rocco, Jr. in the irons, the Grade III Southwest Stakes winner covered four furlongs in 49.48 seconds on a fast track.
“Basically, we were just letting him stretch his legs a little before we put him on the plane tomorrow,” said Von Hemel, who booked the horse on the Tex Sutton charter scheduled to depart Louisville with some of the other contenders, arriving at Islip-MacAruthur Airport in the afternoon. “Everything is good and it’s all systems go.”
Suddenbreakingnews is the first graded stakes winner for owner Samuel Henderson, who has owned horses since the 1970s but had his first Triple Crown runner when the son of Mineshaft was a fast-closing fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
“I’m excited to bring this horse up there because I think the horse has a real chance,” Von Hemel said. “You always think your horse is peaking at the right time and is the best he can be when you go into a race like this, but we’re very happy with the way he’s doing.”
Exaggerator set to work Tuesday
On his first morning at Belmont Park since arriving from California Sunday night, trainer Keith Desormeaux watched Preakness winner Exaggerator, the expected favorite for Saturday’s Belmont, gallop 1 ½ miles Monday morning.
Following his usual path that takes him through the backstretch and paddock, Exaggerator was led to the main track by assistant trainer Julie Clark shortly after 9 a.m. He paused for a few minutes to watch horses pass before taking one lap around under regular exercise rider Peedy Landry.
It was the first time in nearly two weeks that Desormeaux had seen Exaggerator, who shipped from Baltimore to Long Island May 29, eight days after his 3 ½-length victory over previously undefeated Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist in the Preakness.
“He looks great,” Desormeaux said. “I haven’t seen him in 12 days. I think he put on a few pounds which is always a positive quality, especially when you’re running races that are so close together. To see him gain weight is a big positive. His color also looks good and he also has a nice, calm, confident look in his eye. Julie and his groom tell me he’s eating all his meals with vigor. That’s all we can ask for.”
Exaggerator, second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, is scheduled to breeze Tuesday morning following the main track renovation break. Desormeaux said the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin will jog over the training track Wednesday, walk and school in the paddock Thursday, gallop Friday and possibly school in the paddock during the races.
“I don’t train them typically on race day. Some guys will do that; I prefer not to, especially for horses like him who’s got a great, calm demeanor,” Desormeaux said. “He doesn’t need to go out there and release any energy. He releases his energy in the race.”
The connections of UAE Derby winner Lani said the son of Tapit may also breeze Tuesday depending on the weather forecast.
Originally planned for early Wednesday morning after the New York arrival of trainer Mikio Matsunaga on Tuesday afternoon, Keita Tanaka, the agent representing Maeda, indicated that the team may call an audible and work the colt due to the chance of overnight rain into early Wednesday.
“If (it looks like) the ground will be very wet, we will most likely go a day earlier, even though the trainer will miss it,” Tanaka said on Monday.