Final Preps for the “Test of the Champion”

June 8, 2023

Forte preps for a start in the Belmont (NYRA/Coglianese)

NYRA Press Office

ELMONT, N.Y.— A talented field of nine sophomores will line up for the 155th running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday at Belmont Park.

With all of the contenders now on the grounds, the Classic-chasing contingent continued their preparations Wednesday for the 1 1/2-mile stamina test over the famed Big Sandy.

Tapit Trice (NYRA/Coglianese)

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher’s pair each had an easy morning three days out from the “Test of the Champion.” Forte, the reigning Champion 2-Year-Old Colt owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, as well as Grade 1 winner Tapit Trice, owned by Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway, each had a routine 1 1/4-mile gallop around the dirt training track and then stood in the gate. 

National Treasure (Susie Raisher)

SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan’s Grade 1 Preakness winner National Treasure jogged on the main track for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, two days after breezing five furlongs in 59.55. Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes was on hand to manage preparations for the son of Quality Road. Baffert will arrive closer to the race.

Dual Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox will send out a trio of Belmont hopefuls in Angel of EmpireHit Show, and Tapit Shoes

“So far, so good,” Cox said. “They shipped in yesterday and [look] really good. All three trained on the main track and all settled in well.” 

Angel of Empire (Coady Photography)

Albaugh Family Stables’ Grade 1 Arkansas Derby-winner Angel of Empire and Spendthrift Farm, Steve Landers, Martin Schwartz, Michael Dubb, Ten Strike Racing, Jim Bakke, Titletown Racing Stables, Kueber Racing, Big Easy Racing, Rick Kanter and Michael Caruso’s stakes-placed Tapit Shoes both went out at 6 a.m., while Gary and Mary West’s Grade 3 Withers-winner Hit Show went out around 9 a.m. All three galloped about 1 3/8 miles. 

Grade 3 Peter Pan-winner Arcangelo, trained by Jena Antonucci for Jon Ebbert’s Blue Rose Farm, visited the main track for a one-mile gallop under exercise rider Robert Mallari.

“A little feisty, but good. Robert kept him under control out there,” said Ebbert.

Red Route One (NYRA/Coglianese)

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Red Route One galloped a mile and a half over the Belmont training track at 6:00 a.m. under the watchful eye of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s chief assistant Scott Blasi. 

“He looked good this morning,” Blasi said. 

The son of Gun Runner added blinkers three starts back when sixth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 1 at Oaklawn. He was previously a troubled second in the Grade 2 Rebel at the Arkansas oval. 

“I think he’s been better with them on, he’s been more focused,” Blasi said. “He’s starting to put it together now. Hopefully, we get some pace in the race.” 

The Antonio Sano-trained Il Miracolo, who at 30-1 is the longest shot in the field, visited Big Sandy for a routine gallop. Owned by Eduardo Soto, the Gun Runner chestnut enters from a frontrunning score in a Gulfstream Park allowance.

The Belmont Stakes headlines the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival that features a total of 16 stakes events from Thursday, June 8 through Saturday, June 10. For additional information on the 2023 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and details on hospitality offerings, ticket packages and pricing, visit

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