WinStar Farm and Repole Stable’s Noble Indy could make his next start in the 150th running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 9, said trainer Todd Pletcher Friday morning, following the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner’s breeze in company with fellow Belmont hopeful Vino Rosso.
With Javier Castellano aboard, Noble Indy worked a half-mile on the inside of Vino Rosso, a three-length winner of the Grade 2 Wood Memorial and ridden by John Velazquez, on Belmont Park’s main track shortly after the renovation break.
The pair hit the wire at the same time for an official four-furlong time of 47.04 seconds and galloped out five furlongs together in 59 4/5 seconds, per NYRA clockers. Neither horse sported blinkers for the work, as they have done in their respective races this spring.
“Vino Rosso and Noble Indy both breezed exceptionally well,” said Pletcher. “It was a little quicker than we wanted, but they both seemed to do it well in hand, very comfortable, galloped out strongly. After talking to everybody, I think both of them are in the mix for the Belmont now.
“I was surprised watching it at how fast they were going because they didn’t look like they were going that fast,” he added. “Javier on Noble Indy and Johnny on Vino Rosso were sitting motionless and I cautioned them on the radio a couple times, ‘Easy guys, easy, you’re going a little quick.’ You could see they were sitting still, but if there was a right kind of fast work, it was done easily and it didn’t seem to stress the horses. They both came to the wire full of energy and galloped out strongly. I like the way they came back. They didn’t take long to cool out and it looked like they cooled out well.”
Looking to Rebound From Derby
Both colts are exiting starts in the Kentucky Derby, contested over a sloppy and sealed track on May 5. Vino Rosso, by Curlin and owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, finished ninth in the “Run for the Roses,” while Noble Indy crossed the finish line 17th in the 20-horse field.
Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Audible, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby last out, did not breeze as previously planned and instead went for an easy gallop over the main track.
The Into Mischief colt will be rerouted to a summer campaign, said the trainer, with the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 28 at Saratoga Race Course or the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park being top options for his next start.
WinStar president and CEO Elliott Walden, who watched Justify return to training Thursday morning at Churchill Downs, was on hand to see Audible and Noble Indy train at Belmont Friday morning.
“After talking to Elliot, we decided to freshen him up and point for a summer campaign,” Pletcher said of Audible. “I don’t feel like he’s doing quite as well as he was leading into the Derby. We’ve kind of had a couple of weeks here where a lot of his training has been on sloppy tracks, but now that we’ve had some good weather and some good surfaces, I just don’t feel like he’s where he needs to be to feel like he’s going to win the Belmont.”
Audible and Noble Indy are co-owned by WinStar, as is undefeated Kentucky Derby and Preakness victor Justify, who will be vying to become the 13th Triple Crown winner.
“WinStar is fully on board with running [Noble Indy] if the horse continues to do well,” said Pletcher. “The breeze this morning was I think as good as I’ve seen him breeze. He’s a decent workhorse, but I thought this morning is the best I’ve seen him go. I think he put himself in the mix today.”
Belmont decision for Free Drop Billy hinges in part on Sunday workout
Trainer Dale Romans said a decision on whether to run Free Drop Billy in the 150th Belmont Stakes won’t be made before Albaugh Family Stables’ colt has a timed workout Sunday at Churchill Downs. Free Drop Billy worked a bullet half-mile in 47.60 seconds on Monday, the fastest of 51 workouts at that distance.
Romans has said the longer the distance the better for Free Drop Billy, which makes the 1 1/2-mile Belmont particularly appealing. But he also believes the colt will excel on the turf.
“We’re pointing that way as of now,” Romans said of the Triple Crown finale. “We’ll just see how it goes the next few days. We’ll see how he works this weekend and we’ll all talk about it.”
Free Drop Billy won last fall’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, then was a disappointing ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar. In his four starts this year, he was second in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2 Holy Bull to eventual Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Audible, third in both Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Gotham and Keeneland’s Grade 2 Blue Grass before finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby.
“He’s a Grade 1 winner. He doesn’t have to apologize to anyone for being there,” Romans said. “He’s a good horse. I don’t think he liked that muddy track in the Derby. He seems to be a little sensitive to surface.”
Albarado Will Get Call
If Free Drop Billy runs in the Belmont, he’ll be ridden by Robby Albarado. Another option is to wait for the Belmont Derby Invitational on grass on July 7, Romans has said.
Churchill’s all-time winningest trainer also is looking at the Woody Stephens for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs for Gulfstream’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth winner Promises Fulfilled and the $150,000 Easy Goer at 1 1/16 miles for King Zachary. Both races are on the Belmont Stakes card.
“They’re both good horses. King Zachary is a horse I think you’ll be hearing a lot from,” he said. “He’s as talented as anybody we have.”
Romans said he believes King Zachary has the talent to compete in the Belmont Stakes but doesn’t think the son of two-time Horse of the Year and 2007 Belmont runner-up Curlin has the physical foundation to tackle 1 1/2 miles at this time.
“It’s not the caliber of horse,” he said. “He’s not ready for a mile and half… .Promises Fulfilled is just a fast horse. We’ll shorten him up and see what he does. I’m going to nominate to the Easy Goer with him, too. There’s a chance we can show up with two in that race.”
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