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Belmont Stakes update: Waiting is hardest part for next race

Matt Stone/The Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
Belmont Stakes updates from The Sporting Tribune's Louis Rabaut two weeks out from the final leg of horse racing's Triple Crown.

The two weeks between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes always drag.  And it’s simple to see why.

The three circuits that hold the Triple Crown Races: Kentucky (Derby), Maryland (Preakness Stakes) and New York (Belmont Stakes) are all not a month out of their major stakes days.  In other words, next week with mark a month since the Kentucky Derby; it also marks the first Saturday of major stakes since Derby weekend. 

Maryland is just a week out from Preakness and the Belmont runs in two weeks.  Simply put, it isn’t advantageous to host a number of high-level races when they are traditionally spread out a month at a time.

But this week was anything but quiet on the Belmont Stakes probables front.  

Trainer Chad Brown, whose Sierra Leone was second in that blanket photo finish in the Derby, has chosen to change jockeys.  He will move from Tyler Gaffalione to Flavien Prat. 

Most racing observers consider them to be even, but that Prat might be a slightly better jockey.  It comes as no surprise the connections of Sierra Leone would like to make a change after Gaffalione was brought in by state stewards in Kentucky to explain himself after a bumpy ride in the final stretch.  

Trainer Kenny McPeek, whose Mystik Dan already has won the Derby and run second in the Preakness, is uncommitted about his colt’s next race.  He is at Saratoga, the site at which the Belmont Stakes will be run the next two years. 

McPeek has an old-school way of running horses that would not preclude him from running a healthy Mystik Dan in the Belmont.  

More interesting, however, is McPeek’s insistence he is considering running his Kentucky Oaks winner, filly Thorpedo Anna, in the Belmont.  She sets up perfectly for the Grade 1 Acorn — run the same day as the Belmont and against other fillies. 

But McPeek is willing to take risks, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her in the starting gate.

Preakness Winner Seize The Grey will run in the Belmont if he is healthy, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said this week.  We sat down with his jockey and Puerto Rico-native Jaime Torres this week on the podcast, and did a film study of the race with him. 

It was easily our most popular non-Derby episode of the year to this point (check it out here).  Should he run, the shorter distance of this year’s Belmont — 10 furlongs instead of the traditional 12 — will suit him well.

Fierceness, the favorite at Derby time, will likely run as well.  Trainer Todd Pletcher has two other interesting potential entries: Antiquarian, who won the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes at Aqueduct (the final New York prep race for the Belmont) and Mindframe, a lightly-raced colt who has won both of his starts and might be the fastest three year-old in training.

Taking a break

I’m on vacation the next week, so I hope you have a great Memorial Day and start of summer.  You can always email us at TSThorseracing@gmail.com to discuss anything horse racing.