By Jarrod Horak
Preakness hero National Treasure has worked twice for the 2023 Belmont Stakes and the two morning moves could not have been more different. What does it mean and how will it affect his performance on Saturday?
On Tuesday, May 30, National Treasure was surprisingly back on the worktab a mere 10 days after his wire-to-wire victory at Pimlico. With his winning pilot John Velazquez in the irons, he started out too fast and went his opening quarter in 23.63. Johnny V. could sense the rapid tempo and quickly slowed things down. It seems he overcompensated because the second quarter was a dawdling 27.22. That left a slow half-mile move in 50.85. Velazquez let him go again and he went five furlongs in 1:03.19 and six panels in 1:16.08. The horse clearly wanted to do more.
Bob Baffert is known for testing his runners in the morning and he still had 11 days to go until the final jewel of the Triple Crown. You just knew another workout was coming, and sure enough he was back on the racetrack Monday of Belmont week. This time, National Treasure was reunited with his exercise rider Erick Garcia and the pair wasted little time. He was on the engine early with an opening quarter in 23.58 and there would be no holding back this time. His second quarter was a strong 23.76 for a half-mile clocking in 47.34. He kept on going. He went five panels in 59.39, six furlongs in 1:11.73, and seven furlongs in 1:25.63. This was more like it and trainer and exercise rider were pleased.
National Treasure is still relatively fresh after missing the March 4 San Felipe Stakes with a foot issue. The Santa Anita Derby on April 8 was his first start in three months and the Preakness was six weeks after that. His morning activity at Belmont has not gone quite according to plan but he is the main speed and should give a good account of himself if he handles the mile and a half journey.
Belmont Stakes Field
1 – Tapit Shoes / Jose Ortiz / Brad Cox / 20-1
2 – Tapit Trice / Luis Saez / Todd Pletcher / 3-1
3 – Arcangelo / Javier Castellano / Jena Antonucci / 8-1
4 – National Treasure / John Velazquez / Bob Baffert / 5-1
5 – Il Miracolo / Marcos Meneses / Antonio Sano / 30-1
6 – Forte / Irad Ortiz, Jr. / Todd Pletcher / 5-2
7 – Hit Show / Manny Franco / Brad Cox / 10-1
8 – Angel of Empire / Flavien Prat / Brad Cox / 7-2 (blinkers on)
9 – Red Route One / Joel Rosario / Steve Asmussen / 15-1