Submitted by John Piesen on Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Belmont Stakes: Golden Soul, Oxbow, Will Take Charge work at Churchill Downs
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Any hints of concern that something might be amiss with Golden Soul quickly evaporated in the Thursday morning heat when the Kentucky Derby runner-up worked a sharp five furlongs at Churchill Downs in preparing for the June 8 Belmont Stakes.
It was the first workout for Golden Soul since his surprise runner-up finish in the May 4 Derby. Dallas Stewart, who trains the colt for owner-breeder Charles Fipke, had been somewhat coy in recent days about when the colt would work, but Stewart was beaming with confidence after the drill.
“It was perfect, just perfect,” said Stewart. “Everything’s back on the beam with him now. He’s doing great. His appetite wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be for a while there, but hey, the Derby was hard on him, as big as he ran. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody.”
Golden Soul was timed by Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Form in 1:00.36, with a six-furlong gallop-out time completed in a purposeful 1:13.18. The track was rated fast on a warm, humid morning.
The Golden Soul breeze came about two hours before Oxbow, winner of the May 18 Preakness, got in his main work for the Belmont when going six furlongs in 1:14.18, according to Welsch, with a seven-furlong gallop-out in 1:29.34.
D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer of Oxbow, also had his other Belmont hopeful, Will Take Charge, out for work Thursday. One of the first horses on the track as dawn was breaking around 6 a.m. Eastern, Will Take Charge proceeded to breeze six furlongs in 1:15.67 and was out the next furlong in 1:30.80.
Jon Court, who has reclaimed the mount for the Belmont, was aboard Will Take Charge for the work. Court rode the colt to an eighth-place finish in the Derby, after which Mike Smith was seventh aboard him in the Preakness.
Lukas said the times turned in by both his Thursday workers were largely irrelevant and that both “showed the energy I wanted them to show. They’ve both been feeling great since getting back here from the Preakness and I really think it showed again this morning. I feel like we’re in real good shape toward this race.”
Lukas broke a tie with the legendary “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons as the all-time leading trainer in Triple Crown history when Oxbow became his 14th horse to win a race in the series. The Hall of Fame trainer happened to be operating on precious little sleep Thursday morning after being in Colorado the last couple of days to celebrate the Air Force graduation of his grandson, Brady Lukas.
“Our plane got diverted from Dallas and we wound up sitting on a runway for three hours,” he said. “We finally got back to Louisville at 3:30 in the morning, so I just came straight over here to work.”
Meanwhile, Stewart, the former longtime assistant to Lukas, hardly could say enough good things about Golden Soul, a chestnut colt who was 34-1 when rallying from 15th to finish second by 2 1/2 lengths to Orb in the May 4 Derby.
“He’s really come around in the last few days, I’m telling you,” said Stewart. “A lot of this game is about knowing your horse. I can just see where he’s back. He did everything right on cue in the work. He switched leads, extended real well, came bouncing home again, cooled out great, did some grazing for about an hour. I’m very happy.”
Stewart said he has Golden Soul booked on the Tex Sutton equine charter that will fly Tuesday from Louisville to New York. The Lukas horses will van the previous day, a trip that typically takes about 15 hours.
* Trainer Bob Baffert said he was “probably leaning not to run” Code West in the Belmont unless there were unforeseen, wholesale changes to the prospective field. Code West is at Churchill Downs, where he worked on Wednesday.
With Code West looking less likely to run, that means Rosie Napravnik is the leading contender to ride the filly Unlimited Budget should she run. Todd Pletcher, who trains Unlimited Budget, on Thursday said it was “very, very likely” Napravnik would have the mount. Unlimited Budget’s starting status will be determined after a workout on Sunday at Belmont Park, Pletcher said. Napravnik rode Unlimited Budget to victory in the Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds in February.
* Edgar Prado has pulled off two of the biggest Belmont Stakes upsets, winning aboard Sarava ($142.40) in 2002 and Birdstone ($74) in 2004, both spoiling Triple Crown bids. Prado will get a chance to pull another upset this year when he rides Giant Finish, a New York-bred son of Frost Giant who finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby.
* Trainer Tom Albertrani said Thursday that Freedom Child will not have another timed workout leading up to the Belmont.
Albertrani said that Freedom Child “did plenty the other day” in a five-furlong move on Monday timed that was timed by Daily Racing Form in 1:00.06. He will have a strong gallop Monday or Tuesday, Albertrani said.
“The last two days he’s been tearing the barn down,” Albertrani said. “He came out of the work pretty darn sharp.”