There will be no Triple Crown on the line, but the Belmont Stakes is still full of itself.
That is, based on early indications, there might be a full field of 14 for the third leg of the Triple Crown series at Belmont Park on June 8.
Among them are Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Preakness winner Oxbow and six from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, including the Repole Stable filly Unlimited budget and three other colts owned by Mike Repole.
There hasn’t been a full gate of 14 for the Belmont since 1996, when Editor’s Note won it for Overbrook Farm and trainer D. Wayne Lukas. There were 14 entered in 1993, but El Bakan scratched.
The average field size for the last 20 Belmonts is 10.75.
Besides the filly, Pletcher’s six include Overanalyze, Micromanage and Midnight Taboo for Repole, and Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice and WinStar Farm’s Revolutionary.
It wouldn’t be an unusual move by Pletcher to enter Unlimited Budget.
He won the Belmont in 2007 with Rags to Riches, who held off Curlin to become the first filly to win it in 102 years.
On Thursday, Orb returned to the Belmont Park main track for the first time since his fourth-place finish in the Preakness, galloping a mile.
“I was pleased,” trainer Shug McGaughey told the New York Racing Association. “We’re taking it as it comes and not looking too far ahead. But if everything goes well, we’d like to run in the Belmont.”
Oxbow has returned to Lukas’ barn at Churchill Downs.
Besides a filly, the 145th Belmont could have a little bit of everything, including a New York-bred, Giant Finish, who was 10th in the Kentucky Derby.
The rest of the prospects are Will Take Charge, who was eighth in the Derby and seventh in the Preakness; Derby runner-up Golden Soul; Peter Pan winner Freedom Child; Code West and Power Broker from trainer Bob Baffert; and Always in a Tiz, who broke his maiden first time out at Saratoga Race Course last summer.
Part owner Anthony Bonomo of Brooklyn Boyz Stable told the Daily Racing Form on Friday that he was being considered, after Always in a Tiz was ninth in the Wood Mem-orial.
Pletcher is scheduled to work all of his Belmont horses on Sunday.
More Belmont-related Triple Crown numbers: the average field size for the 11 Triple Crown-winning Belmonts was 5.36. In the 19 other Belmonts in which a Triple Crown was on the line, but the Derby-Preakness winner failed to complete it, the field size was 9.16.
MET MILE MONDAY
The highlight of the Memorial Day weekend is the Metropolitan Handicap card at Belmont on Monday.
As usual, the Met Mile has drawn a great field, and is bolstered by a strong undercard of stakes that includes the Grade I Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares and Acorn for 3-year-old fillies, and the Grade II Sands Point.
The 7-year-old Flat Out will attempt to stay undefeated in races at Belmont Park.
He’s the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Flat Out has won seven of 23 lifetime starts, and four of them have come at Belmont.
He won the 2011 Suburban, the 2011 and 2012 Jockey Club Gold Cup and the one-mile Westchester in his last start, the first time he has run a mile or shorter since the 2009 Smarty Jones.
“We ran him at a flat mile last time, and he ran very well,” trainer Bill Mott said. “I had always wanted to try him at that distance.”
The nine-horse field includes just one who hasn’t won a graded stakes, the lightly raced Cross Traffc, one of two for Pletcher in the Met Mile, along with Discreet Dancer.
Cross Traffic was second to Flat Out in the Westchester in just his third career start.
Now he’s tackling a Grade I against a loaded field.
“It’s pretty rare that you see a horse who has come that far in such a short time,” Pletcher said. “He was an unraced 4-year-old at the start of the year. He ran a huge race in the Westchester. He just lost to a tough, seasoned veteran who seems to love Belmont.”
Mark Valeski, who has been worse than second just once in nine career starts, is 5-1 off a second to Graydar in the New Orleans Handicap.
Trainer Larry Jones trains Mark Valeski, along with two contenders in the Ogden Phipps, 7-5 favorite Joyful Victory and 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can.
Kauai Katie is even-money in the Acorn. The 2012 Adirondack winner has lost just once in seven starts, a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Mechanicville native Chad Brown will saddle Watsdachances as one of the top contenders in the Grade II Sands Point in his second start of the year after a second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
BACK TO FOSTER
Trainer Ian Wilkes said that Breeders’ Cup Classic and Whitney winner Fort Larned will next run in the Stephen Foster at Churchill on June 15, a race in which he was eighth last year.
Fort Larned has had a disappointing 2013, losing jockey Brian Hernandez while stumbling at the start of the Gulfstream Park Handicap and finishing fifth as the 1-2 favorite in the Oaklawn Handicap.
“This is like a restart for the year for us,” Wilkes said. “We had a couple hiccups earlier this year, and now we are looking to restart our year and point everything to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Fort Larned worked five furlongs in 59.80 at Churchill on Friday under Calivn Borel, but Wilkes said Hernandez still has the mount.
In the meantime, Fort Larned’s 2-year-old half-brother, Lent, made his career debut on Friday, finishing fifth to favorite Simple Interest at odds of 24-1.
The 5-year-old New York-bred mare Hessonite is 5-2 in the Grade II Sheepshead Bay at Belmont today, fresh off the first graded stakes of her career, in the Beaugay at Belmont on Derby Day.
The only loss in her last six starts was a fifth in the Grade I Flower Bowl, a stretch that includes two wins at Saratoga, in the Yaddo and Irish Linnet.
“It’s a competitive field, but it will give us a little line on what path we want to take with her this summer,” trainer David Donk told NYRA.
Atigun, third in the Belmont and fourth in the Travers, is the 7-2 third choice in the Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs.
He’s coming off an allowance win in Derby Day that was his first victory in a year.
Elkhorn winner Dark Cove is 5-2, and Elkhorn favorite Ioya Bigtime is 3-1.
Arlington Park is hosting three graded stakes, the Classic for 3-year-olds on the turf, the Arlington Matron and the Hanshin Cup.
Stablemates Ruler On Ice, the 2011 Belmont winner, and 2011 Louisiana Derby winner Pants On Fire will square off in the Majestic Light at Monmouth Park.
Woodbine Oaks winner Irish Mission, second against males in the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown last year, the Queen’s Plate, is 2-1 in the Grade II Nassau at Woodbine.
Besides the Met Mile card, Monday’s stakes action includes the Grade I Gamely and Grade III Los Angeles at Hollywood Park, the Grade III Winning Colors at Churchill Downs and the $300,000 Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap.
Five-time graded stakes winner Marketing Mix will break from the outside of six rivals in the Gamely in her first start since finishing second by three-quarters of a length to Zagora in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
Also in the field are two-time Grade I winner Lady of Shamrock, fifth in the BC Filly and Mare Turf, and Grade II Santa Ana winner Tiz Flirtatious, who beat Lady of Shamrock by a length.
Comma to the Top will be back in familiar territory in the Los Angeles — 28 of his 30 career starts have been in California. The only exceptions are a 19th in the 2011 Kentucky Derby and a win
in the Tom Fool at Aqueduct on March 2.
Judy the Beauty, sporting a 4-4-0 record from eight starts, is in the seven-horse Winning Colors field.
She was second to Grace Hall in the 2011 Spinaway in at Saratoga and second to Emma’s Encore in the Prioress last year.
Trainer Steve Asmussen has the 6-5 favorite and 7-5 second choice in the five-horse Lone Star Park Handicap, Texas Mile winner Master Rick and Prayer for Relief, who is winless in 11 starts since the 2011 Super Derby.
Be Bullish, an 8-year-old gelding, will make the 69th start of his career as the 5-2 favorite for the George Barker at Finger Lakes. Six of the 10 horses in the field are at least 7 years old.
On Sunday, Grade III Lexington winner Winning Cause is the 8-5 second choice behind Up With the Cause in the Marine at Woodbine.
HERE AND THERE
Jockey Garrett Gomez was treated and released for minor injuries after he was dropped by Randino in the first race at Hollywood Park on Friday.
The 2-year-old filly, who went off at 4-5 in her career debut, had the lead inside the eighth pole, but shied from the whip and veered into the rail, dropping Gomez. He appeared to be grazed by a trailing horse, but was able to walk onto the ambulance. Randino was euthanized. . . .
Retired jockey Chantal Sutherland told the Daily Racing Form that she plans to return for the Del Mar meet in July. . . .
In Excess, a prominent sire who won the Met Mile, Suburban, Whitney and Woodward in 1991, died last week at the age of 26.
He sired two Grade I winners, Musical Chimes and Romance is Diane.