Destin, Stradivari post half-mile moves for Belmont Stakes
Edited Press Release
Beating the light rain that began to fall at Belmont Park Friday morning, Todd Pletcher worked both his $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) hopefuls, Destin and Stradivari, at 7:45 a.m. (ET) on the fast training track.
The notable news coming out of the breezes is that the status of Stradivari, the fourth-place finisher in the Preakness Stakes (G1), was upgraded to confirmed for the June 11 Belmont. Destin had been training with an eye on the 1 1/2-mile final leg of the Triple Crown since his sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Destin, with jockey Javier Castellano in the saddle, was the first to work and completed his half-mile breeze in :49.56 while in company with stablemate Awesome Gent.
Destin, wearing the blinkers he runs in, was on the outside of Awesome Gent, a romping winner of the Jimmy Winkfield S. at Aqueduct earlier this year. They matched each other, stride for stride, throughout the move.
The early splits for the work, according to Pletcher's stopwatch, were :13.20 for the opening eighth of a mile and :25 for the initial quarter. Destin's five-furlong gallop-out time was 1:02.40; 1:15.20 for six furlongs; and 1:28.60 for seven furlongs.
Next on deck was Stradivari, with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the irons. They were joined by Decorated Soldier in the half-mile work, which was recorded in :50.55. The opening splits were :12.80 and :25.20, with gallop-out times of 1:02.80, 1:15.20 and 1:29.40.
Stradivari and Decorated Soldier, the fifth-place finisher in the Peter Pan S. (G2), finished on nearly even terms, but the former emerged with a few-lengths advantage during the gallop-out around the turn.
Two hours after Stradivari's work, Pletcher indicated he had spoken with Stradivari's connections, who gave the green light for the son of Medaglia d'Oro to start in the Belmont Stakes.
"I was satisfied with this morning's work (from Stradivari) and assuming he comes out of it well, and we're happy with him between now and entry day (Wednesday), yes (to running)," Pletcher said.
Concerning the half-mile workout times for both his Belmont hopefuls, Pletcher said they don't reflect the work as a whole.
"The main thing I wanted was just a nice steady, somewhat relaxed breeze with good steady gallop-outs," Pletcher explained. "I don't think the 49 and change or 50 and change really tells the whole story about what the breeze actually was – a good and strong gallop-out and good steady 12 and change splits."
The jockey pairings in the works – Castellano on Destin and Velazquez on Stradivari – are the confirmed race-day assignments.
Destin and Stradivari will jog Saturday – Pletcher’s custom after breeze days – and visit the starting gate on the training track. Sunday will be a walk day in the shedrow for both horses.
The trainer said he may opt to gallop Destin and Stradivari "a time or two" on the main track next week provided the "conditions are favorable." Both horses are expected to paddock school at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
Pletcher's record in the Belmont Stakes is 2-4-1 from 20 starters. Only his mentor, D. Wayne Lukas, and Nick Zito have saddled more Belmont starters, 24 and 25, respectively. Pletcher's Belmont winners are Rags to Riches in 2007, and Palace Malice in 2013.
Destin and Stradivari photos courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography