Daniel Dougherty's Ride On Curlin, runner-up to California Chrome in the Preakness Stakes, stretched his legs June 1 with a seven-furlong breeze under exercise rider Bryan Beccia at Belmont Park.
The Billy Gowan-trainee was one of six Belmont Stakes contenders to put in their final drills for the 1 ½-mile classic on the Sunday before the Belmont June 7. The others were Kentucky Derby second Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong, Matuszak, Commissioner, and Matterhorn.
Ride On Curlin was passed by a pair of workers after breaking off on the backside, but rated kindly for Beccia while settling down into his move, and then quickened away from the head of the stretch to the wire. New York Racing Association clockers listed him in 1:28.03, the only seven-furlong move on the tab Sunday.
Hopefully, another three-sixteenths of a mile and we'll be able to catch him as opposed to the Preakness, but 'Chrome' is going to be hard to catch. He doesn't have a lot of quit in him.
”-- Billy Gowan, trainer Ride On Curlin
"I thought he went super," Gowan said. "[Beccia] went just like I told him. I told him to go slow the first quarter and he went in :27 seconds, went the last quarter in :24 seconds. It was just what we wanted, mainly just to get some air into him. If I work him a half-mile he may get too speed crazy, so as long as he was going slow, that's all we needed."
The son of Curlin was seventh in the Kentucky Derby, which was his only off the board finish in 11 starts. In the Preakness, he rebounded with a good closing second, 1 ½ lengths back.
"Hopefully, another three-sixteenths of a mile and we'll be able to catch him as opposed to the Preakness, but 'Chrome' is going to be hard to catch. He doesn't have a lot of quit in him," Gowan said. "He worked awful good yesterday, too. Shoot, I'm just happy to be here and I'm a racing fan just like everybody else. I've always wanted a Triple Crown, but hopefully not this year. If we can win it and he runs second, that'd be fine."
Gowan said Ride On Curlin, who has run a race each month since January and twice in May in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, surprised him with how well he has continued on the tough campaign trail.
"I knew he was a tough horse; he runs hard and he always comes out of his races [well], he eats everything and he's real sound. He's marching around there right now. He drank a half-bucket of water and he's done. He's real fit. That was just mainly a little maintenance work. He's come out of every race just super and wanting more, so we might as well give it to him."
Ride On Curlin, seeking his first stakes win, was third in the Foxwoods Champagne Stakes as a 2-year-old at Belmont last fall.
"I know my horse likes Belmont," Gowan said. "Hopefully we can be in a stalking position, that would be the ideal situation, keep our eye on 'Chrome' and then get the jump on him.
"I guarantee my horse will run the turns. He's just that kind of horse, and I think he'll love the turns. You definitely want to be there at the top of the stretch because there's not that far a run to the finish wire. I'd love to see me and 'Chrome' come down the stretch together. I know there's a lot of good horses in the race -- Wicked Strong and Commanding Curve and Tonalist, a lot of them -- but I'd love to be right off 'Chrome' at the top of the stretch and hook up and see what happens."
Two of the horses Gowan mentioned, Commanding Curve and Wicked Strong, both turned in different sorts of moves June 1.
West Point Thoroughbreds' Commanding Curve went a half in :47.38 seconds for trainer Dallas Stewart in company with West Point's Cost Affective from the barn of Tom Albertrani early in the morning. The breeze was the third quickest of 25 at the distance.
Commanding Curve was kept under a hold as he finished approximately one length in front of his workmate. The Master Commandridgling was 1 ¾ lengths back of California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby with a good late finish.
"I thought he worked great," said trainer Dallas Stewart. "I've never seen him work any better. It was easy, and he was calm and perfect. He came back not blowing. That's the thing about him: he never gets tired. It was just a great day for him. We'll take it."
Also on the worktab for Stewart were Unbridled Forever, who went four furlongs in :48.59 seconds aiming for the TVG Acorn, and Golden Soul, who got four furlongs in :47.15 seconds en route to the Brooklyn Handicap. Both the TVG Acorn and Brooklyn are contested on Belmont Day as well.
Centennial Farms' Wicked Strong, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, ticked through a powerful five-furlong breeze in :59.10 seconds on the training track, best of 12 over the surrace and distance. Exercise rider Kelvin Pahal said the Hard Spun colt did it well within himself.
"It just felt like he was galloping," Pahal said.
Wicked Strong -- winner of the Twinspires.com Wood Memorial and fourth in the Kentucky Derby in his last start -- saw 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice breezing in company ahead of him and locked in keenly on the target. He rated at Pahal's command, however, and galloped out strong.
"I thought he went real good," Jerkens said. "It was a little fast, but [Pahal] saw me put my hand up to slow down, and he did. He didn't pull him back, but he didn't urge him any. It looked like he saw [Palace Malice and Celebrator] ahead of him and really got into gear around the turn and was approaching them fast, which is why I slowed him down but it was good. I'm happy with it."
Wicked Strong was 5 ¾ lengths behind California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby on May 3, his most recent start. He had blowout workouts before the Wood and the Derby but will not have a blowout before the Belmont, according to Jerkens.
"He'll probably just gallop into the race," said Jerkens. "He gallops pretty steadily. I blew him out at Churchill because he wasn't really getting into the bridle when he galloped. He was really distracted, which is why we gave him a little something."
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott supervised a bevy of trainees including George Prussin's Matuszak, who clocked five furlongs in 1:00.94 accompanied by Maximus Mike. By Bernardini, the colt last ran second to Belmont possible Kid Cruz in the April 19 Federico Tesio Stakes.
"It was great, I got him in a minute, came home very well," Mott said. "I realize we're kind of a longshot and we're reaching, but the horse is really coming around well at the right time. He's really been working quite well; the past three works have been quite good. He just needs some company, anything to get him started. He seems like the type that could get a mile and a half, stay steady and keep coming."