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May 27, 2011

Now it's on to the Belmont Stakes

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Three weeks between races is not a long time in modern thoroughbred racing. It is, however, plenty of time for owners and trainers to convince themselves whether or not their horses are able to move forward to the Belmont Stakes.

About the only three-year-old that is definite for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes is Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro. Owned by Ahmed Zayat and trained by Steve Asmussen, Nehro was kept back from the Preakness Stakes to get ready for the third leg of racing's Triple Crown.

"The main decision came down to Mr. Zayat feeling it was a little much to ask the horse to run four great races in an eight-week time frame. We are looking to keep Nehro around throughout the entire year, with our next goal being the Belmont Stakes. We also have other goals down the line, being that he loves Churchill Downs and potentially running in the Breeders' Cup Classic," Brad Weisbord, the finance and racing manager for Zayat Stables, said at the time.

Final decisions on the status of the leading two three-year-olds, Shackleford and Animal Kingdom, are still a week or two away from being made.

"You know, Woody Stephens (Hall of Fame trainer) said a long time ago, Belmont is a speed horse's race. Everybody's tired at the eighth pole, so the horse on the lead can usually keep on going," Preakness winning trainer Dale Romans said after Shackleford held off Animal Kingdom for the victory.

"Both (owner) Barry (Irwin) and I would like to run in the Belmont," said Derby winning trainer Graham Motion. "We'll see how he is, and wait a week or so before we make any decision. First and foremost, we want to do right by the horse."

Only 19 times have the Kentucky Derby champ and Preakness winner met in the Belmont Stakes. The last time was 2005 when Preakness victor Afleet Alex defeated Derby winner Giacomo.

"I think these three-year-olds are a lot better than people are giving them credit for," Romans noted about the class of 2011. "even without Uncle Mo (sidelined with a gastrointestinal disorder). When he gets back in the picture, I think this is a good group of horses."

Dialed In, fourth in the Preakness, was vanned to the Oklahoma training track in Saratoga Springs Sunday morning. Trainer Nick Zito and owner Robert LaPenta are undecided on the Belmont Stakes.

"You think about it, but it's too early to tell," Zito said.

Zito and LaPenta won the 2008 Belmont Stakes with Da'Tara and in 2004 Zito had Birdstone upset Smarty Jones.

Trainer Kathy Ritvo vanned Mucho Macho Man, third in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness, back to Belmont Park where the colt will start in the Test of Champions.

"We're on. I think it's his kind of track and his kind of race," she said. "We have plans to run in the Belmont, and we want to run in the Belmont, but we have to see how he does,"

Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing, Mucho Macho Man

has won over $500,000 this year in five starts, but just one win. The Preakness was the first time he was off the board in 10 career starts.

Trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal indicated that his two three-year-olds could both start in the Belmont Stakes. Isn't He Perfect was ninth in Saturday's Preakness.

"I'm pleased with the way he came back," Shivmangal said. "I'm going to speak to (owner/cousin) Dejainauth Ramnarayn and see what we do from here - if we're going to try for the Belmont or not. He's a strong horse. He looks very fit, no problems, no cuts or anything. I am still high on him. I may run him or Harlan's Hello in the Belmont, maybe both of them. I don't know yet."

Harlan's Hello won an optional claimer at Belmont Park on May 13,

King Congie, seventh in the Preakness, may also be headed to the Belmont Stakes. Trainer Tom Albertrani, who trains the colt for West Point Thoroughbreds, sent King Congie to Belmont Park to await his next start.

"We need to talk about it, but the Virginia Derby maybe," said Albertrani.

The 1 1/4-mile $600,000 Virginia Derby is held on the turf at Colonial Downs on July 16.

The Kentucky Derby had 20 entries and 19 starters. The Preakness had the maximum 14 three-year-olds start. The Belmont Stakes looks to have no more than 10 starters for the June 11 classic.drf

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