ELMONT, N.Y. — Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will send out a trio of contenders looking to navigate a full lap around Belmont Park’s Big Sandy and thwart Lone Rock’s repeat bid in the 133rd running of the 1 1/2-mile Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes Day.
First Constitution, Portos and three-time graded stakes-winner Fearless comprise three of the seven-horse field. Like the 154th running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, the Brooklyn will be contested at the famed 12 furlongs as one of nine graded stakes on a loaded card.
Repole Stable’s Fearless did not win his first stakes race until his 5-year-old campaign last year when capturing the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile. After capping 2021 with a four-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday in December at Gulfstream, Fearless started his 6-year-old year with consecutive runner-up efforts to Speaker’s Corner in one-mile Gulfstream graded stakes appearances in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper and the Gulfstream Park Mile, respectively.
Stretched out to 1 1/8 miles, Fearless won the Grade 3 race named for his sire, Ghostzapper, by six lengths in April at Gulfstream before running second in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap at the same distance last out in April. He will be stretched out to 12 furlongs for the first time.
“We had to go in two back-to-back [one-turn] mile races against Speaker’s Corner – who is an awfully nice horse – and he ran well every time,” Pletcher said. “He’s training well and we’re eager to try him at this mile-and-a-half distance because he certainly gives us the impression he’ll stay that far. He just keeps going. You can see in his mile-and-an-eighth races that he just gets into that good cruising speed.”
Luis Saez will have the call from post 7.
The Chilean-bred First Constitution handled the stretch out in distance last time, building on a 6 3/4-length win in the 1 1/8-mile Jazil in January at Aqueduct Racetrack and a third-place effort in the 1 1/8-mile Excelsior in April at the Big A by going gate to wire for a four-length victory in the 1 3/8-mile Flat Out over a sloppy and sealed Belmont track on May 6.
Owned by Don Alberto Stable, WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing, First Constitution is 2-2-2 in seven starts since arriving from his native country in 2021 and transferring into Pletcher’s care.
“It seems like he relishes longer distances,” Pletcher said. “I thought his race in the Flat Out was good. He seems to be an effective galloper so we’re going to try and stretch him out another eighth.”
Jose Lezcano will ride form post 5.
Wertheimer and Frere’s Portos ran second to his stablemate last out in the Flat Out in his first stakes action since April 2021 and will also look to stretch out in marking Pletcher’s third entrant.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will have the call from post 4.
Flying P Stable, R.A. Hill Stable and Flying Partners’ Lone Rock won last year’s Brooklyn edition by 11 1/4 lengths, earning the lone triple digit Beyer Speed Figure of his career by garnering a 100 for his dominating effort against a nine-horse field. The Robertino Diodoro trainee continued his long-distance success in his 7-year-old year, winning the 1 1/2-mile Temperance Hill and the Isaac Murphy Marathon at the same distance last out on May 3 at Churchill Downs.
“It’s been so exciting to have a horse who has taken us from Del Mar to Oaklawn, Belmont, Saratoga. He’s won everywhere,” Diodoro said. “He’s been a fun ride and we’re excited to do it again. He’s a cool customer and knows how to relax, and I think that’s a big part of it. To have the turn-of-foot he has and turning for home at those distances, it’s been impressive. At Belmont, the wide turns [can help]. He’s a big horse and it’s probably those turns that he takes a liking to.”
Lone Rock has won 16 of his 40 career starts while amassing career earnings of more than $1.3 million but did not win a graded stakes until last year’s Brooklyn. The gelded son of Majestic Warrior added another graded score by capturing the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance going 1 5/8 miles in November at Del Mar.
“Horses are athletes and sometimes they are late bloomers,” Diodoro said. “He was meant to be a good horse, it just took him awhile to put it all together.”
Ramon Vazquez, who has ridden Lone Rock in his last 10 starts, including the Brooklyn win, will be aboard from the inside post.
Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Warrant, fourth last out in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Ben Ali in April at Keeneland for trainer Brad Cox, earned a 104 Beyer in his previous start with a strong runner-up effort to Express Train in the prestigious Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, finishing a head back to Express Train in the 1 1/4-mile test.
The 4-year-old son of Constitution is 3-4-2 in 10 career starts. Flavien Prat will depart aboard Warrant from post 3.
George Hall and Annestes Racing Corp.’s Max Player will return to Belmont for the first time since winning the Grade 2 Suburban last July and followed with a victory in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in September at Saratoga before finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Del Mar.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen gave Max Player a six-month freshening, with the 5-year-old son of Honor Code making his 2022 debut with a seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 Alysheba on May 6 at Churchill. Jose Ortiz will pick up the mount for the first time, drawing post 2.
Flying P Stable’s Locally Owned was third last out in the Flat Out in his 6-year-old bow and will rematch against the two Pletcher trainees. Trained by Tom Morley, Locally Owned drew post 6 with Dylan Davis on the call.
The Brooklyn is slated as Race 5 on Saturday’s 13-race card which features a first post of 11:20 a.m. Eastern with the Belmont Stakes slated as Race 11 at 6:44 p.m.
National television coverage of Belmont Stakes Day will begin on FS2, where America’s Day at the Races will air from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. before coverage shifts to CNBC from 3 to 5 p.m. and NBC from 5 to 7p.m. America’s Day at the Races will then return to FS2 from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
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Belmont Park Press Release
Photo: Lone Rock, (NYRA)