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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Belmont Stakes: Prado brings longshot touch to Giant Finish


ELMONT, N.Y. – As a two-time winner of the Belmont Stakes, Edgar Prado has a pretty good idea of what it takes to win the third jewel of the Triple Crown.

“Patience,” Prado said. “Lots of patience. It’s a long way to go. It’s the horse, too. There are only a few horses that can go that distance and if you use them early you fade in the backside or fade at the top of the stretch. You have to wait a little longer than you normally do in the regular races. I got lucky twice; hopefully we can do it again.”

Prado upset the 2002 Belmont on 70-1 shot Sarava and the 2004 Belmont on 34-1 shot Birdstone, both times when a Triple Crown was on the line. Saturday, Prado will make his 11th appearance in the “Test of the Champion” aboard another longshot, Giant Finish, in a race that includes Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Preakness winner Oxbow.

On Tuesday, at Belmont Park, Prado got acquainted with Giant Finish, guiding him through a half-mile workout in 49.04 seconds over the main track.

“He went nice and easy to the pole. I let him pick it up and finish good,” said Prado, who added that trainer Tony Dutrow “didn’t want to go too fast.”

“He’s handling the track well,” Prado said. “I don’t think the distance will be any problem. He’s a big horse. He’s bred to go to the distance. Hopefully, that shows up Saturday.”

With the exception of Dynever, who was 8-1 in the 2003 Belmont, Prado has ridden horses who were double-digit odds in the Belmont. Sarava ($142) remains the longest-priced winner in the history of the race.

Birdstone, who returned $74, won before the largest Belmont Stakes crowd (120,139) in history, many coming to see Smarty Jones capture the Triple Crown. Prado kept Birdstone in the back while Eddington and Rock Hard Ten applied some pressure to Smarty Jones.

“They were two horses that came from off the pace, and they went, so I said ‘Good for me, I’ll sit in the back and wait,’ ” Prado said. “Then I started getting closer and closer and I said ‘Oh [shoot], should I keep riding or not?’ I was rooting for Smarty Jones because we needed a Triple Crown. That was bittersweet.”

Rodriguez made call on Vyjack

While owner David Wilkenfeld is on board, he said the decision to run Vyjack in the Belmont Stakes came because of the confidence trainer Rudy Rodriguez has in the colt.

“I gave them every opportunity to back out,” Wilkenfeld said, referring to Rudy and his brother and assistant Gustavo Rodriguez. “I didn’t press on them at all. They have confidence in the horse. If you draw a line through the Derby you can put him in there with everybody else.”

Vyjack finished 18th in the Derby after breaking from the outside post. Jockey Garrett Gomez told Rodriguez the horse got keyed up from the roaring crowd and became somewhat unmanageable in the early stages.

Rodriguez said he was glad Gomez wrapped up on him from the three-eighths pole to the wire.

Rodriguez believes Vyjack has recovered sufficiently from the Derby to take a shot in the Belmont. Following a six-furlong work on May 28 at Aqueduct, Vyjack worked five furlongs in 59.48 seconds Tuesday morning at Belmont under Rudy Rodriguez, who urged him fairly strongly through the lane. Rodriguez, realizing he went quicker than he wanted, did not allow Vyjack to gallop out.

“I thought he did a little more than I wanted,” Rodriguez said. “That’s why I eased him up after the finish line.”

Rodriguez believes Vyjack is handling Belmont’s main track better than he did the track at Churchill.

“The track was too hard for him over there,” he said. “He seems very comfortable over here on this track.”

Incognito to remain off Lasix

Incognito was expected to be the only horse entered in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes who won’t be running on Lasix, the anti-bleeding medication.

Incognito has not raced on Lasix in any of his previous six starts, but it is common for horses to get put on the drug when competing in a race of this magnitude. Incognito comes off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Peter Pan on May 11.

“He has never bled,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.

Lasix was first permitted in New York in the fall of 1995. Starting in 1996, there have been just 12 horses to run in the Belmont without Lasix – only three in the last 11 runnings. The best finish among the non-Lasix users was the filly My Flag, who finished third in 1996.

? The New York Racing Association will match all funds donated ontrack Saturday to the American Red Cross and Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma for victims of the tornado that struck Moore, Okla., on May 20.

Among the places damaged by the tornado was the 106-acre Orr Family Farm, also known as Celestial Acres. The training facility was said to be filled with Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses stabled for the meet in progress at Remington Park. More than 75 horses were believed killed by the tornado.

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