Medal Count, eighth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, breezed six furlongs in 1:10 ⅗ the morning of May 31 at Churchill Downs in preparation for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.
General a Rod, fourth last time in the Preakness Stakes is also headed for the June 7 Belmont Stakes after working five furlongs in 1:00 ⅕ at Churchill Downs' Trackside training facility Saturday morning.
Medal Count, a Dale Romans trainee among those trying to spoil a Triple Crown sweep by California Chrome, recorded fractions of :34 ⅕ seconds and :57 ⅘ seconds under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar. The 3-year-old son of Dynaformer galloped out seven furlongs in 1:24 and one mile in 1:39. The workout, the quickest of eight at the five-furlong distance, was the third for Medal Count since his run in the Kentucky Derby May 3.
On hand for the morning drill was Spendthrift Farm owner B. Wayne Hughes, with whom Romans discussed the decision of running Medal Count in the Belmont.
"I knew we were meeting Tuesday at Cracker Barrel," Romans said. "I was thinking of all the reasons I wanted to run him in the Belmont and why it would work. [Hughes] is one of the most intimidating men in the game. I walked in and sat down at the table with my stuff ready to go and he said, 'When are we shipping?' I said, 'Do you want to run there?' He said, 'Do you?' I said 'Yes' and he said 'Run.' Then we had eggs and talked about economics!"
Medal Count, a three-time winner from eight starts with earnings of $261,600 is to ship to Belmont Park June 5.
"Coming out of the Derby, I didn't know what I was going to do with him that day," Romans said. "After a couple days, he got back to training and he was doing so well. I went back and watched the Derby two or three times and he obviously should have been right there. He wasn't going to beat the winner but I think he could have possibly been second and obviously been third."
Romans plans to send Medal Count to the Belmont Derby Invitational (formerly the Jamaica Handicap) on turf July 5. "That gives us time for one race in between and we can get him another chance at a classic," he said.
Robby Albarado has been confirmed as the rider for Medal Count. Albarado has been on board for five of the colt's eight starts, including his win in the off-the-turf Transylvania and his runner-up effort in the Toyota Blue Grass, both contested on the Polytrack at Keeneland.
Meanwhile, Skychai Racing and Starlight Racing's General a Rod also was given the go-ahead for the Belmont Stakes after his drill, his only one since the May 17 Preakness.
Trained by Mike Maker, General a Rod won the Gulfstream Park Derby in his first start of the year. He followed that with a runner-up effort in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth and a third-place finish in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby -- all at Gulfstream Park. He proceeded to finish 11th in the Kentucky Derby before his fourth in the Preakness.
Maker confirmed that jockey Rosie Napravnik will ride the Roman Ruler colt in the Belmont, which will be her second mount in the 1 ½-mile race after finishing sixth aboard the filly Unlimited Budget last year. Maker has saddled only one other Belmont starter in his career, Stately Victor, who finished seventh in the 2010 edition.
"I see no reason not to go," Maker said. "There was no reason to rush into a decision, in my opinion. We waited it out, and the horse told us to go. I felt good before the Preakness and I feel good before the Belmont. One of these times we're going to have a clean run and go from there."
General a Rod will carry a 2-2-1 mark from seven starts into the final jewel of the Triple Crown, with earnings of $372,200.