Batten Down Targeting Start in Belmont

May 22, 2024

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NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Juddmonte’s Kentucky homebred Batten Down is the latest addition to the prospective field for the Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets as Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott confirmed the son of Tapit has his sights set on the 10-furlong test slated for June 8 at Saratoga Race Course.

“I am,” said Mott when asked if he is considering the Belmont Stakes. “I don’t know if he’ll get in or not – he’s only broken his maiden.”

Batten Down was an eye-catching winner at fourth asking in an April 30 maiden special weight going the Belmont distance against elders at Churchill Downs. Ridden by Junior Alvarado, Batten Down went straight to the lead and never looked back, widening his advantage at every point of call to draw off to an 8 3/4-length victory in a final time of 2:02.49. He was awarded a 92 Beyer Speed Figure.

“It was a spectacular ride by Junior Alvarado,” said Mott. “We were pleased to find out he handled the distance good.”

Batten Down has improved with more ground in each start, as would be expected with his pedigree. Out of multiple Grade 1-winner and 2014 Champion Older Mare Close Hatches, Batten Down is a full-brother to the Mott-trained Tacitus, who finished second in the 2019 Belmont Stakes at its traditional 1 1/2-mile distance and won the 10-furlong Grade 2 Suburban as a 4-year-old.

Batten Down finished sixth on debut sprinting seven furlongs in January, but was defeated a neck in his next start when stretched out to nine furlongs. He then finished a close third with stalking tactics when traveling 1 1/16 miles ahead of his breakthrough score in his farthest test to date.

Mott said he expects another prominent trip in the Belmont.

“He’ll be in with a different group of horses, but the pace is usually different going a mile and a quarter than a mile and a sixteenth, so that leaves him closer [in longer routes] than the other types of races,” said Mott.

Batten Down worked Monday over Saratoga Race Course’s Oklahoma dirt training track, covering five-eighths in 1:02.55 with Alvarado at the helm.

“It was beautiful, and Junior worked him like poetry in motion. It was a beautiful piece of work,” said Mott.

In addition to Batten Down, among those currently under consideration for the Belmont Stakes are Antiquarian [Todd Pletcher], Dornoch [Danny Gargan], Fierceness [Pletcher], Honor Marie [Whit Beckman], Seize the Grey [D. Wayne Lukas], Sierra Leone [Chad Brown], The Wine Steward [Mike Maker], and Tuscan Gold [Brown]. Trainer Ken McPeek is considering entering Mystik Dan but should he not enter his Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner there is the possibility McPeek could enter Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks-winner Thorpedo Anna instead.

Just F Y I puts in a breeze Saturday. (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)
Just F Y I trains ahead of the Kentucky Oaks (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)

Mott has plenty to look forward to at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, with at least four other trainees eyeing stakes engagements during the lucrative weekend. George Krikorian’s Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Just F Y I will be nominated to the nine-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 DK Horse Acorn on June 7 after a game runner-up effort behind Thorpedo Anna in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 3.

Just F Y I, who earned her Champion honors for Grade 1 wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Frizette last year, has finished second in both her outings this year, making just one start before the Oaks when three lengths back of Leslie’s Rose in the Grade 1 Ashland in April at Keeneland. The Oaks saw her stalk 2 3/4 lengths off the pace under Alvarado and advance well in the final turn, but she was unable to reel in Thorpedo Anna late as she was defeated 4 3/4 lengths over the sloppy and sealed footing.

“The other one was better on the day – I don’t know if that had to do with the condition of the racetrack, or if it would have evened out on a dry track,” said Mott.

Just F Y I had her first work back since the Oaks with a bullet half-mile solo in 47 seconds flat Monday.

“Yes, she was [sharp],” Mott said. “I think she’ll have a great year.”

Casa Creed wins the 2022 renewal of the Jaipur (Chelsea Durand)

LRE Racing and JEH Stable’s evergreen Casa Creed has contested the Grade 1 Jaipur for three straight years – and won in 2022 – but will skip the 5 1/2-furlong race this year in favor of the Grade 3, $350,000 Poker at one-mile on June 8. The Jaipur was shortened by a half-furlong from its traditional six-furlong distance this year, leaving it at a distance the 8-year-old Jimmy Creed horse has contested just once in his 35-start career – a ninth in the 2022 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

Casa Creed, who won the 2022-23 Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap going one-mile, was last seen finishing sixth in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in March at Meydan Racecourse, where he raced in mid-pack and put in a mild bid to be defeated 2 3/4 lengths behind the victorious California Spangle.

“It was probably a wasted trip,” said Mott. “We’re looking at the Poker.”

While Casa Creed will not contest the Jaipur, Mott will likely still be represented in the lucrative turf sprint with stakes-winner Sosua Summer, who looks to rebound from a distant off-the-board finish last out in the Grade 2 Shakertown on April 6 at Keeneland.

“I can’t make any big excuses,” Mott said of the Shakertown. “He just didn’t really fire.”

Krikorian’s multiple Grade 1-winner War Like Goddess returned to the work tab on Friday for the first time since scratching from the Grade 3 Bewitch on April 26 at Keeneland, a race she had won for three consecutive years. The daughter of English Channel withdrew from the race due to a cut on her leg, but returned to breeze a half-mile in 49.49 seconds Friday.

Mott said the 1 3/16-mile Grade 1, $750,000 New York presented by Rivers Casino on June 7 is the likely next target, but expressed his concern that the distance may prove too short for the expert marathoner.

“She’s doing well,” said Mott. “I guess the New York. It’s not her distance. I wish we had a race at the proper distance for her.”

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