LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs was the primary training grounds for the Preakness, with a remarkable nine of the 12 starters having prepared here, including the top six finishers in the Pimlico classic last Saturday. It won't be nearly as busy here in the next couple of weeks, although three prospects for the June 5 Belmont Stakes will be shipping from Churchill, along with one more just a few miles away at the Trackside training center.
First Dude, the Preakness runner-up and one of the early Belmont favorites, will be the most notable Churchill invader in a contingent also expected to include Dublin, Stay Put, and the Trackside horse Stately Victor.
Steve Margolis, trainer of Stay Put, said the fact that both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will be absent from the Belmont does not necessarily mean the race will lack in quality and depth.
"It's going to be a good race with a big field, so at least racing fans should like it," Margolis said.
Belmont officials said earlier this week that as many as 12 3-year-olds, four under the limit, are under consideration for the race. Clearly, star power will be missing without Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky. This is only the third time since 1970 that the Belmont will lack both the Derby and Preakness winner; the other years were 2000 (Fusaichi Pegasus and Red Bullet) and 2006 (Barbaro and Bernardini).
Margolis said he is very pleased with how Stay Put, a late-running colt with three career victories, emerged from an allowance victory on the May 1 Derby undercard and that he and the owners, the Klein family of Louisville, are excited about taking part in a Triple Crown event. He said Stay Put will work Thursday at Churchill, ship to Belmont on May 27, then work at Belmont on the Saturday (May 29) or Sunday (May 30) before the race.
"Our horse is moving in the right direction, so we feel good about going up there and taking a shot," Margolis said.
* Backtalk had his first workout since finishing last of 20 in the Derby when breezing an easy half-mile here Saturday in 51.80 seconds over a fast track. Trainer Tom Amoss has said he intends to return the Smarty Jones colt to sprinting.