Trainer Dale Romans’ duo of Brody’s Cause, seventh last time out in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), and Preakness runner-up Cherry Wine put in breezes for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (Grade I) on June 11. Brody’s Cause worked one mile in 1:42.00 while Cherry Wine went a half mile in :49.60.
Churchill Downs clockers caught Brody’s Cause in splits of :37.60, :49.80, 1:02.40 and 1:28.80 before galloping out 1 1/8 miles 1:56.40. Cherry Wine recorded splits of :12.60 and :37.40 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:03.00.
“I wanted a lot of heavy lifting done before we go up (to Belmont),” Romans said. “We want to get an easy work next week up there and just back off a little bit and get them used to being out on the racetrack for as long as it was going to take for them to go a mile-and-a-half around those big turns. You never know what kind of track you’re going to get. It’s either going to be really sandy or if you get natural rain it could be tight.”
Cherry Wine’s half-mile breeze came just one week after a late-closing second behind Exaggerator in the May 21 Preakness Stakes (GI).
"I normally wouldn’t work a horse back in a week but he’s been doing so well,” Romans said. “Cherry Wine will run on concrete, he’ll run on mud, he’ll run on gravel, it doesn’t make any difference. It wasn’t the mud that moved him up, he’s a good horse. He’s a good horse that’ll run on anything.”
In preparing for this year’s Belmont Stakes, Romans is taking some old words of wisdom from the late Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens.
“Allen Jerkens once told me, ‘They’ll naturally go a mile-and-an-eighth, but you have to teach them to go a mile-and-a-half and that’s what we’re working on this morning,” Romans said. “You just got to get them mentally ready to be focused for as long as it takes to run a mile-and-a-half.”
So how does one go about teaching a horse to go the mile-and-a-half distance?
“Keep them on the racetrack for a while,” Romans said. “Whether it’s jogging or galloping, that’s what I’ve always done. We’ve run it seven times and have four thirds so I’m kind of lost at sea, stuck in average. I’d love to have that big trophy and then we can focus on one more.”
As far as going the distance is concerned, Romans has nothing but faith that Cherry Wine can do just that.
“He’ll go the mile-and-a-half,” Romans said “He’s probably bred to go the mile-and-a-half better than anyone in the race.”
Going into this year’s Kentucky Derby, Romans was less concerned about Brody’s Cause than he was his prior Derby contenders.
“He didn’t have one concern other than that he got into a little bit of trouble,” Romans said. “You’re going to do that when you try to pass that many horses. It was a fast run Derby and 30,000 horses are born every year and we were seventh out of 20 so I’m proud of him. He finished up well so these last five weeks I’ve been training him like he wants to go a mile-and-a-half and have been trying to teach him how to do it, so today’s work was spectacular. He just went around there real easy.”
Romans has a great amount of confidence that his two 3-year-olds will run big races in the Belmont Stakes.
“In a game where you get beat 85 percent of the time, you better be halfway arrogant when you enter a horse, so I think they have a big shot,” Romans said. “Brody has already proven to be the best of the two so far – he beat him – but Cherry is taking a step forward. It’ll be interesting; I don’t know which one we’re going to like the best. Maybe we’ll pull off a Black-Eyed Susan.”
So far, the pace for the Belmont Stakes figures to be a slow one.
“I’ll put them on the lead if there’s no speed. What’s the difference?” Romans said. “These horses will do anything. They’ll take any cue from their jockeys. We took Cherry Wine way further back than we normally would’ve just rolling the dice with those horses in the race that they were going to go fast and collapse. If they didn’t, we probably wouldn’t get anything, we’d be stuck in no man’s land. That’s what I didn’t want to happen. I didn’t want to get stuck fifth all the way around there, I wanted to be 30 (lengths) out of it and then I gave the instructions to ride like Mine That Bird in the (2009) Kentucky Derby and that’s exactly what he did. Only thing he didn’t do was make sure he caught the last one.”
On the undercard, Romans will have Black-Eyed Susan (GII) winner Go Maggie Go in the $700,000 Acorn (GI).
“She ran super last week, it’s shaping up to be a great race,” Romans said. “The whole card is going to be great. We don’t have a Triple Crown on the line, but everyone that’s a horse racing fan should be up there watching this group of races that they’re putting together. It’ll be as good as the Breeders’ Cup. There’s going to be an emerging star coming out of the Belmont and even without Nyquist it’s going to be a super race.”
Brody’s Cause and Cherry Wine would likely ship to Belmont Park on Tuesday and put in their final breezes at the New York oval that following Saturday, June 4.
TEPIN BREEZES; ROYAL ASCOT IN ‘DISCUSSION MODE’ – Plans for reigning Champion Turf Mare Tepin to seek international glory at Royal Ascot are in “discussion mode,” according to trainer Mark Casse following her Saturday morning breeze on a fast main track at Churchill Downs where the 5-year-old daughter of Bernstein went five furlongs in 1:01.60.
Tepin was timed in fractions of :12.60 and :36.60 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.60 with regular rider Julien Leparoux in the irons.
“I’m going to talk to (owner) Mr. (Robert) Masterson this afternoon and see how she is tomorrow (Sunday),” Casse said via telephone. “She still has one more breeze next Friday, but we’ll try to make as final of a decision as you can in horse racing. There are a lot of variables to go into going to England. We can’t run on Lasix and we can’t use a nasal strip that she usually wears. Today she breezed without Lasix or a nasal strip. She’s a heavy breather but Julien said that today she was breathing a little heavier than usual. We’re still talking about it and tomorrow we’ll probably decide.”
Casse’s son Norman, who oversees his string of horses at Churchill Downs, was onsite for Tepin’s work, which was her first since a 3 ½-length romp as the overwhelming favorite in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII) on the May 7 Kentucky Derby undercard.
“We were just looking for a typical five-eighths like we did two weeks out,” Norman Casse said. “She doesn’t too anything too fancy anymore. Since she’s matured, she just kind of does everything that she needs to do. This was a very typical work for her, just a nice even five-eighths and galloped out well. She looks like she’s moving well and I think Julien (Leparoux) would agree that she’s been doing well.”
"She went well,” Leparoux said. “She was making a bit of noise, like usual, but maybe a bit more, but she went good, nice and easy.”
Should Tepin get a thumbs-up from Casse for a trip across the pond, she would likely ship on Friday, June 3.
Also on the Saturday work tab for Casse was Live Oak Plantation’s World Approval, who went five furlongs in 1:00.40 and is pointing toward the $1 million Manhattan (GI) on the June 11 Belmont Stakes undercard. John Oxley’s Airoforce went a half-mile in :49.80 in preparation for a start in the $500,000 Penn Mile (GIII) at Penn National on June 4. Pretty City Dancer, Casse’s 2-year-old maiden victor on Friday afternoon, is a possibility for the $100,000 Debutante on July 2.
DOWN THE STRETCH – A solid field of rising sprinters is taking shape for the upcoming $100,000 Aristides (GIII), a six-furlong sprint for three-year-olds and up that will be run on Saturday, June 4. Churchill Downs Stakes Coordinator Dan Bork said known probables for the Aristides include Dirt Master, Limousine Liberal, William Walker winner Toews On Ice and Union Jackson. … Reminder: Churchill Downs has a special 11-race card on Memorial Day Monday. All active and retired members of the United States armed forces will be admitted free of charge or receive a discounted ticket to dine on Millionaires Row. Also, Churchill Downs’ bugler Steve Buttleman will perform patriotic melodies following the “Call to the Post” for each race. … The “Who’s the Champ? Handicapping Contest” returns Sunday. Interested participants can enter for $35 ($30 for TSC Elite members) for a chance to win the $1,000 cash voucher first prize by placing mythical $2 win and place bets on Races 3-8. Second place receives a $500 voucher and third place is worth a $200 voucher. Registration takes place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on the Clubhouse second floor at the top of the Gate 17 escalators.