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Belmont Stakes Contenders Prepare for the Final Jewel (Videos)

Belmont Stakes Contenders Prepare for the Final Jewel (Videos): As the third and final jewel of the Triple Crown approaches just thirteen days away, a few contenders are already getting comfy on the Belmont Park track to prepare for the 146th Running of the Belmont Stakes on June 7, 2014. California Chrome, Tonalist, Samraat, Wicked Strong and Commissioner all had a go around the Belmont Park track on Sunday, May 25, 2014 (videos below).

California Chrome: With clear blue skies and a bright morning sun beaming down for the first time since his arrival at Belmont Park earlier this week, Triple Crown candidate California Chrome “trained like a monster” this morning as he continued his preparations for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 7. “He just keeps getting stronger,” said Alan Sherman, son of and assistant to trainer Art Sherman, after the chestnut colt galloped two miles around the track. “I can see it in his stride and the way he’s taking hold of exercise rider Willie Delgado, he seems to like this track. He’s actually put on some weight since the Preakness. “This morning, with the way the sun was hitting him, he was shining like a new penny,” he added. “He looks so good right now.” California Chrome, who would become the California-bred to win the Triple Crown should he add the Belmont to his victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, has been away from his home base at Los Alamitos in Orange County, Calif. since April. “It always takes him a day or two to settle in,” said Sherman said of the colt’s sojourns to Churchill Downs and Pimlico Race Course. “He’s starting to figure everything out. He stands there and lets everyone take their photos. He’s a big ham. He’s enjoying himself and having fun.” Sherman said California Chrome would continue to train at 6 a.m. for the foreseeable future, with his lone scheduled work between the Preakness and the 1 ½-mile Belmont slated for May 31. “He’s nickering when we get to the barn in the morning,” he said. “He doesn’t like to stand around.” Art Sherman, 77, returned to California following the Preakness and is scheduled to arrive in New York early next week. “He’s probably missing the horse, but I’m sure he’s enjoying the peace and quiet,” said Alan Sherman of his father. “He’s holding up well. He was getting a little tired, which is probably why he’s staying at home a little longer.”

California Chrome Gallops May 25, 2014 at Belmont Park

Tonalist: Belmont Stakes contender Tonalist put in his penultimate work for the June 7 “Test of the Champion” at 6 a.m. on a resplendent morning at Belmont Park. Trained by Christophe Clement for Robert Evans, the 3-year-old colt went an easy five furlongs in 1:01.63. The son of Tapit broke from the half pole, commencing the breeze at a leisurely pace of 25.19 seconds for the opening quarter-mile. Entering the stretch, the Clement trainee picked up the pace, finishing in 36.44 for his final three furlongs and galloped out well. “Nice work,” said Clement. “He looked good, was willing, and came back in good order. It was not the most aggressive work, but it was what we wanted. He galloped out in :13 and 3/5 this morning, so it was a strong gallop out.” The move is planned to set up Tonalist for his final work, which will transpire next weekend. “The plan is to bring him back this coming Saturday or Sunday and work him in company with Life In Shambles,” said Clement. “It will probably be a touch more aggressive. I just hope we can keep him sound and life is good.”

Tonalist Workout May 25, 2014 at Belmont Park

Wicked Strong: Looking to put additional stamina into Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong, trainer Jimmy Jerkens had the colt breeze one mile on Sunday with exercise rider Kelvin Pahal aboard. Wicked Strong, who started and finished at the half-mile pole on the Belmont training track, completed one mile in 1:39.59 and galloped out 1 1/8 miles in 1:55.22. “I thought it was good. A nice, good stamina work,” said Jerkens, who trains the son of Hard Spun Centennial Farm. Jerkens had Wicked Strong breeze seven furlongs 10 days before the Wood Memorial and eight days before his fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. The colt also blew out two days before the Wood and two days before the Derby. He returned to the worktab last week for the first time since the Derby by turning in a 1:01.84 five-furlong breeze on the training track. The trainer added that Wicked Strong will work again next weekend and then could have a blow out the week of the Belmont Stakes. “It’s what got him here, so we figured we wouldn’t change the format,” said Jerkens. “He worked last week; he worked faster than I wanted. He was a little too edgy  last week, so we decided we’d keep him [on the training track] and work him two turns just to simmer him down a little bit. He worked on the training track last week, but he was really on the muscle. If you’re on the muscle on the training track you’ll be doubly on the muscle [on the main track]. He went nice and easy the first part and finished up nicely today, I thought.”

Wicked Strong Workout May 25, 2014 at Belmont Park

Samraat: The New York-bred Samraat, fifth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, logged a solid move of 1:41.28 seconds for a mile for trainer Rick Violette and owner Len Riggio. The son of Noble Causeway was undefeated through his first five starts before finishing second to Wicked Strong in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial before contesting the Derby. Samraat shipped from Rick Violette’s base at Aqueduct Racetrack for the breeze. “It was terrific, exactly what we wanted,” said Violette. “He made a long sustained run around the turn and straight through the wire. He ran his last three-eighths in 36 flat and cooled out like he was King Kong. “The breeze was intended to be his final serious piece of work before the June 7 Belmont Stakes, according to Violette. “Saturday would be the right day, or Sunday, we’ll watch the weather next week,” said the trainer. “It will just be an exercise to blow off a little steam and let him feel really good.”

Samraat Workout May 25, 2014 at Belmont Park

Commissioner: Intense Holiday, most recently 12th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the June 7 Belmont Stakes after being pulled up with an injury following a five-furlong breeze this morning in company with Belmont contender Commissioner. According to trainer Todd Pletcher, Intense Holiday suffered a condylar fracture of the right foreleg and will undergo surgery to repair the injury. “It’s not life-threatening, and I don’t think it’s career-ending,” said Pletcher. “It’s particularly frustrating because after the Derby we ran [all the tests] and everything indicated he was healthy and ready to move forward. It’s unfortunate.” Both Intense Holiday and Commissioner, who had jockey Javier Castellano aboard, were timed in 1:00.77 for five furlongs. “I thought Commissioner breezed very well,” said Pletcher of the Grade 2 Peter Pan runner-up. “He was traveling well throughout and was willing; he seemed to be getting over the surface well and wrapped up good. He did everything you hoped he would do.” Pletcher said he thought Commissioner, a 1 1/8-mile maiden winner last summer at Saratoga Race Course, would not have difficulty negotiating the 1 ½-mile Belmont. “I think the longer he goes, the better he will get,” he said. “We’ve always felt he was all A.P. Indy and the further he goes, the better. We’re looking forward to the distance.”

Commissioner Workout May 25, 2014 at Belmont Park:

Belmont Stakes 2014 Potential Contenders as of 5/25/14:
California Chrome
Wicked Strong
Commanding Curve
Ride On Curlin
Kid Cruz
Social Inclusion
Candy Boy