As many as 10 horses, including Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, are likely for the June 11 Belmont Stakes, but Preakness champion Early Voting won’t be one of them.
The clear-cut winner of the Triple Crown’s middle leg sat out the Kentucky Derby after a second-place finish in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens back in April. It turned out to be a winning strategy for Chad Brown-trained colt, who (with jockey Jose Lopez in the saddle) turned in a sterling performance at Pimlico on May 21 in winning the Preakness over the favorite Epicenter, running to a lifetime-best Beyer speed figure of 105, according to the Daily Racing Form.
That’s the best Beyer speed figure of any horse on this year’s Triple Crown trail, four points to the good of Rich Strike’s 101 for his improbable upset victory in the May 7 Kentucky Derby. But according to DRF’s Jay Privman, Brown said that Early Voting would skip the Belmont Stakes and target the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in late August.
The Preakness winner’s next race, Privman reported, would likely be the July 23 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, or the July 30 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.
“We’ll evaluate later on and pick a race,” Brown was quoted in the DRF report. “We want to set him up for what lies ahead.”
As for Epicenter — the Derby runner-up and Preakness favorite who finished a tough-luck second again on Saturday after a tough trip around the Pimlico track — trainer Steve Asmussen indicated to DRF that the colt will also skip the Belmont Stakes and will also be pointed toward running in the Travers Stakes.
That means Rich Strike, who stunned the racing world at 81-1 odds in his Kentucky Derby victory, could very well go off as the favorite in the June 11 Belmont Stakes, the third and longest leg of the Triple Crown at 1 1/2 Miles around the big sandy oval.
The New York Racing Association named Rich Strike among six probable runners for the Belmont Stakes. The others include two other Derby runners: Mo Donegal, the Wood Memorial winner who finished fifth in the race, and Barber Road, who finished sixth in the run for the roses.
Creative Minister, who finished third in the Preakness, is also probable for the “test of the champion.”
Also listed as Belmont probables are the top two finishers in the May 14 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park: We the People, who won the race decisively for trainer Rodolphe Brisset; and Golden Glider, the runner-up for trainer Mark Casse.
Others considered possible for the Belmont Stakes are Etherial Road, who won the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday; Nest, the runner-up to Secret Oath in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks; Skippylongstocking, who ran fifth in the Preakness; and Western River, the third-place finisher in the Peter Pan Stakes.