(Farmington Road / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Since the day Farmington Road joined trainer Todd Pletcher’s shed row, he was seen by his connections as the type of horse that would be a contender for the G1, $1 million Belmont Stakes.

Despite the rescheduled date for the Belmont Stakes, now set for June 20, and a scaled back distance from 1 ½ miles to 1 1/8 miles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, co-owner Aron Wellman said he is delighted to have a contender in the Classic race.

“It’s still the Belmont regardless of how you slice it,” said Wellman, president and founder of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners who co-owns Farmington Road with Robert LaPenta and Chrysalis Stables. “It’s still a very meaningful race with a rich history. It would be an enormous honor to add another Belmont to our trophy case. Any number of owners, trainers and breeders would be happy to have a representative.”

Wellman and Pletcher captured the carnations when Tapwrit won the Belmont in 2017.

Third time was the charm for Farmington Road when breaking his maiden in his two-turn debut on January 12 at Tampa Bay Downs as the overwhelming favorite. The son of Quality Road has been competitive against stakes company, posting a second-place finish in the Oaklawn Stakes over a sloppy track on April 11, and enters the Belmont Stakes off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.

Despite Farmington Road being touted as the type of horse that could get the traditional mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes distance, Wellman said the colt remains a strong contender.

“It’s a bit of a bittersweet feeling,” Wellman said. “From the moment he walked into Todd’s barn, we had him pegged as a Belmont horse. Obviously, we know the unforeseen circumstances but nevertheless, we still believe that the horse is doing exceptionally well. With better luck and a better trip, he can make his presence felt with money on the line.”

The standout in the Belmont Stakes, which will be run as the Triple Crown’s first leg this year, is two-time Grade 1-winner Tiz the Law, who will attempt to become the first New York-bred to win the Belmont since Forester in 1882.

Wellman said he has nothing but respect for the probable Belmont favorite but is not letting his presence make him call an audible with his horse.

“Tiz the Law is a horse that’s done it all, so we have the utmost respect for him, but after him it’s wide open. We don’t dodge any race for one horse,” Wellman said.

Pletcher will also saddle St. Elias Stable’s Dr Post in search of a fourth Belmont Stakes win following Rags to Riches [2007], Palace Malice [2013] and Tapwrit.

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Tap It to Win likely to train up to G1 Belmont Stakes

Live Oak Plantation homebred Tap It to Win announced his Belmont Stakes intentions with an authoritative allowance win on June 4 at Belmont Park.

Trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse, the Tapit bay made the lead under Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the 1 1/16-mile allowance event, set swift splits and kept on going en route to a five-length win. He garnered a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure for his final time of 1:39.76, just shy of Transparent’s track record 1:39.22 from September 2018.

Tap It to Win, with exercise rider Shane Tripp up, galloped on the main track at 6:45 a.m. Thursday morning under the watchful eye of assistant trainer Jamie Begg.

“We backed him up to the half and galloped him a mile. He did really well,” said Begg. “I picked him up with the pony and he [Tripp] was very happy with him. His energy levels are good, so hopefully we get there in one piece. There’s a few Belmont horses dropping right now and the field seems to have gotten a little easier. That bodes well for us.”

Recent defections from the field include the injured Bob Baffert-trained duo of Nadal and Charlatan, as well as Gouverneur Morris, who is now pointing to the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland on July 11.

Begg said Tap It to Win, a three-time winner who graduated at second asking in August at Saratoga Race Course, is likely to train up the Belmont Stakes.

“I don’t think we plan on breezing him before the Belmont. That’s something Mark and I can discuss and see how he’s training up to it and see what we think,” said Begg. “He’s coming back in two weeks and we’re more just trying to get his energy levels back up. We’re not worried too much about fitness. He’s plenty fit. You could see on the gallop out in that allowance the other day that he can handle the distance.”

Last year, Begg worked closely with Belmont Stakes-winner Sir Winston, who utilized an off-the-pace approach in the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion” to close out a memorable Triple Crown season for the Casse barn that also included a Grade 1 Preakness win with War of Will.

This year, the Belmont will be contested 1 1/8-miles to properly account for the schedule adjustments to the Triple Crown series and overall calendar for 3-year-olds in training.

Begg said Sir Winston and Tap It to Win share one important quality in their class. He also noted the one-turn Belmont should benefit his 2020 Belmont Stakes contender.

“They’re both classy horses,” said Begg. “But this horse [Tap It to Win] is a little more speed oriented, so the cutback in the Belmont definitely helped his chances of going in there. I’m not sure if it was a mile and a half this year we’d necessarily make this move. Johnny, after he rode him, said he handled the mile and a sixteenth like it was nothing. He said he had tons of horse left and that gave us a lot of confidence going in here.”

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Vanzzy possible for G2 Pennine Ridge

Daniel M. Ryan’s Vanzzy, victorious on dirt and synthetic, could look to add a third winning surface to his ledger in the Grade 2, $150,000 Pennine Ridge, a one-mile turf event for sophomores set for Belmont Stakes Day June 20.

Trained by Michael Pino, the Verrazano bay graduated on the Parx dirt at second asking in October ahead of a runner-up effort a month later in the Parx Juvenile, a seven-furlong turf sprint.

Vanzzy next shipped north to Woodbine in December where he captured the 1 1/16-mile Display on Tapeta. After being pulled up in the Grade 3 Withers in February at the Big A, Vanzzy made a winning return in the going gate-to-wire for a 4 1/4-length win in the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway on the Turfway Park synthetic.

Vanzzy was entered May 23 in the War Chant, a one-mile turf stake at Churchill Downs won by Smooth Like Strait, but Pino said he elected to scratch in search of a better fit.

“It’s a possibility,” said Pino regarding the Pennine Ridge. “The race in Kentucky came back a little competitive and I didn’t want to ship all that way [from Parx].”

Pino said the versatile colt, a $70,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale, should handle the turf.

“He’s got turf in his pedigree and he handles the Poly well,” said Pino. “He trains on the dirt very well too, so if it came off I wouldn’t hesitate to run him.

“He’s doing really well right now,” added Pino. “We’re searching for spots.”

Pino saddled Shadwell Stable homebred Ashraq to a half-length score over Belmont Stakes contender and Grade 3 Withers-winner Max Player on November 12 in a one-mile main track event at Parx.

The Medaglia d’Oro ridgling was off-the-board in the Central Park last out over 1 1/16-miles of yielding Big A turf.

“He’s doing very well now. He had a hock issue and we have to give him some time,” said Pino. “He’s training well and about ready to run. He’s back on track.

“He was a little rank in the stakes,” added Pino. “A horse came up outside him and he retreated. I’ll throw that race out. I  still think he’ll turf, I just think the way the race set up it didn’t work out.”

Shadwell Stable’s Arkaan, a 3-year-old Into Mischief colt purchased for $450,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, is another lightly-raced horse with potential. The grey or roan Arkaan’s second dam, Priceless Storm, produced G3-winner Castaway. His third dam, Lady Lochinvar, produced millionaire multiple graded-stakes winner Master Command.

“He’s training well and probably should have started by now, but unfortunately we’ve had nowhere to run him,” said Pino. “I like the way the horse is doing. He may make a start here next week at Parx or Delaware.

“I’m fortunate to be associated with Shadwell,” added Pino. “Whatever horses they send, I’m happy with it. I couldn’t ask for a better client.”

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Well-bred Hill d’Oro debuts for Kimmel

Trainer John Kimmel will debut a well-bred 3-year-old filly on Saturday afternoon when Hill d’Oro faces 11 others in a one-mile maiden event over the Widener turf course at Belmont Park.

Owned by Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm, Hill d’Oro is by multiple champion producing sire Medaglia d’Oro and out of Canadian champion Sealy Hill, making her a full-sister to multiple Grade 1-winner Cambier Parc. She was purchased for $425,000 from the Gainesway consignment at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

“She’s been training well. She definitely prefers the turf and should be more suited with a further distance,” Kimmel said. “She’s been a laid back filly. At times, she’s shown lots of brilliance in her works and other times it seems like she just goes through the motions. She seemed to sharpen up after a gate work. Hopefully, she’ll get better with a race or two under her belt.”

Hill d’Oro was bred in Kentucky by Bonne Chance Farm and will break from post 9 under Benjamin Hernandez.

If Hill d’Oro wants to become a winner on debut, she will have to face a pair of Chad Brown trainees that also are making their first starts.

Peter Brant’s Dovima, breaking from post 2 under Jose Ortiz, will attempt to make her first start a winning one. Bred in Kentucky by Forging Oaks Farm, the chestnut daughter of Union Rags was purchased for $440,000 from the Ocala Breeders Sales Company’s 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale in April 2018 and is out of the Rahy broodmare Miss Utada who also produced Secret Gypsy – a two-time graded stakes winner on the NYRA circuit. Dovima arrives at her career debut off of a solid bullet work at Payson Park Training Center, where she went a half-mile in 49.60 seconds on June 7.

Cost Benefit, a Dansili bay filly, was purchased by Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables at the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale in 2018 overseas. Bred in Great Britain by Go Bloodstock Australia Pty Ltd., Cost Benefit is out of the Olden Times broodmare Forgotten Dreams and comes from the same family as prominent sire Dubawi, 1998 Epsom Derby winner High Rise and multiple Group 1-winner In the Wings, who won the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Jockey Joel Rosario will guide Cost Benefit from post 5.

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Early look at Belmont Stakes Day probables

Saturday, June 20

G1 Belmont Stakes
Probable:  Basin (Steve Asmussen), Dr Post (Todd Pletcher), Farmington Road (Pletcher), Max Player (Linda Rice), Modernist (Bill Mott), Sole Volante (Patrick Biancone), Tap It to Win (Mark Casse), Tiz the Law (Barclay Tagg)
Possible: Pneumatic (Asmussen)

G1 Longines Acorn
Probable: Casual (Steve Asmussen), Gamine (Bob Baffert), Lucrezia (Arnaud Delacour), Perfect Alibi (Mark Casse), Pleasant Orb (Barclay Tagg), Venetian Harbor (Richard Baltas), Water White (Rudy Rodriguez)

Grade 1 Jaipur presented by America’s Best Racing – Breeders’ Cup WAYI
Probable: Diamond Oops (Biancone), Hidden Scroll (Bill Mott), Justaholic (Tom Clark), Kanthaka (Graham Motion), Oleksandra (Neil Drysdale), Pure Sensation (Christophe Clement), Stubbins (Doug O’Neill), Texas Wedge (Peter Miller), Tiger Blood (Mike Maker)

Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Claiborne Farm
Probable: Echo Town (Steve Asmussen), Fore Left (Doug O’Neill), Meru (Jorge Duarte, Jr.), Mischevious Alex (John Servis), No Parole (Tom Amoss), Shoplifted (Asmussen)
Possible: Premier Star (Mike Trombetta)

Grade 2 Pennine Ridge
Probable: Decorated Invader (Christophe Clement), Hieronymus (Brad Cox), Proven Strategies (Mark Casse)
Possible: Maryland Mo (Graham Motion), Vanzzy (Mike Pino)

Grade 3 Wonder Again
Probable: Antoinette (Bill Mott), Highland Glory (Barclay Tagg), Selflessly (Chad Brown), Speaktomeofsummer (Christophe Clement), Sweet Melania (Pletcher)