Bobby Zen

The GI Kentucky Derby winner is here. So is the champ of the GI Preakness S.

Neither of them–Mystik Dan (Goldencents) or Seize the Grey (Arrogate)–were installed as the morning-line favorite for the 156th running of the $2 million GI Belmont S. which will be run at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday. Post time is scheduled for 6:41 p.m.

That honor went to Sierra Leone (Gun Runner) at the draw, which was held Monday evening at Universal Preservation Hall in downtown Saratoga Springs.

Sierra Leone was made the 9-5 morning-line favorite by New York Racing Association linemaker David Aragona when the field of 10 was unveiled.

Sierra Leone will start from post position nine.

“It’s fine,” trainer Chad Brown said. “He has drawn outside versus being a little further inside (two post) than I wanted in the Kentucky Derby. I like that for a horse that’s favored. Flavien (jockey Prat, who is riding Sierra Leone for the first time) should be able to survey the inside into that first turn and, hopefully, pick his spot. It will come down to whether he has a clean trip and runs his ‘A’ race on Saturday.”

Brown trains Sierra Leone for Peter M. Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg and Brook T. Smith. This will be the fourth Belmont Brown has been a part of. Previously, his best finish came in 2018 when Gronkowski (Lonhro {AUS}) finished second.

Brown is from nearby Mechanicville, which is 16 miles away from Saratoga Springs.

NYRA moved the historic Belmont to the Spa City for the first time because Belmont Park is under construction. The Belmont is also scheduled to be run in Saratoga next year.

The historic implications and the fact the race will be held at his hometown track are not lost on Brown.

“It is very special; there is a lot of excitement in the city,” Brown said. “For me, personally, growing up in the area, I’m just thrilled to have one of the favorites. When I first started training, I never thought winning the Belmont at Saratoga would be in the realm of possibility, but here we are. It’s a very unique situation for the next couple years. Winning the first one ever in Saratoga would really be the highlight of my career.”

Because of the track configuration at Saratoga, the Belmont will be run at 1 1/4 miles, not the traditional 1 1/2 miles.

Sierra Leone earned favoritism after a valiant effort in the Kentucky Derby. He lost to Mystik Dan by a nose, leaving him with three wins and two seconds in five career starts.

His other loss, also by a nose, came in the GII Remsen S. last year.

Sierra Leone was a $2.3 million purchase at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale.

“This horse has everything you are looking for,” Brown said. “He has a beautiful pedigree. You could literally breed thousands of horses and not get one that looks like this one. Going through the many horses in my 17-year career, he would be on a very small list of horses that check all the boxes.”

Brown also had Tuscan Gold (Medaglia d’Oro) pointed to the Belmont, but did not enter him.

Mystik Dan | Sarah Andrew

Mystik Dan, trained by Kenny McPeek and owned by Lance Gasaway, 4G Racing, LLC, Daniel Hamby III and Valley View Farm, LLC, is the 5-1 third choice on the morning line and will start from post position three.

McPeek said the post was perfect; it’s the same hole Mystik Dan had when he won the Kentucky Derby.

“This is a good race,” McPeek said. “It will be interesting to see how it sets up. If you give Wayne’s (Lukas) horse (Seize the Grey) another easy lead he will be hard to catch. You have Chad’s horse sitting back there and Todd (Pletcher) is throwing three bullets at you. Good race.”

Brian Hernandez returns to ride Mystik Dan, who was second in the Preakness. He would be the first horse to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown since War of Will in 2019 (Max Player ran in all three in 2020, but those races were spaced out over four months due to COVID).

Hall of Fame trainer Lukas arrived in Saratoga with Seize the Grey on Saturday and the Preakness winner is 8-1  on the morning-line. He will start from the rail with jockey Jaime Torres for owner MyRacehorse.

Seize the Grey won the Preakness on a muddy track at Pimlico going gate-to-wire.

After deciding to pass the Belmont with ‘TDN Rising Star‘ Fierceness (City of Light), Hall of Famer Pletcher still will have three Belmont runners.

Mike Repole, who owns Fierceness, will still have two Belmont starters. The lightly-raced Mindframe (Constitution), winner of his first two starts by a combined 21 1/4 lengths, takes a big step up, starts in post position 10 and is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. He is also owned by St. Elias Stables LLC and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.

“It’s a lot to ask,” Pletcher said of making Mindframe’s third start the Belmont. “But we wouldn’t ask him if we didn’t think he was talented enough.”

Centennial Farms’ GIII Peter Pan winner Antiquarian (Preservationist) is 12-1 on the morning line and starts from post position five with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

Pletcher is also running maiden Protective (Medaglia d’Oro), who finished third in the GII Wood Memorial and Peter Pan. He will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione from post position seven and is 20-1 on the morning line.

Resilience (Into Mischief), trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and owned by Emily Bushnell and Ric Waldman, drew post position two and has 10-1 odds. The Wood Memorial winner and sixth place finisher in the Kentucky Derby will be ridden by Junior Alvarado

Trainer Whit Beckman will have his first Belmont starter in Honor Marie (Honor Code). The eighth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby gets a new rider in Florent Geroux, who replaces the injured Ben Curtis. Owned by Ribble Farms, LLC, Michael H. Eiserman, Earl I. Silver, Kenneth Fishbein and Dave Fishbein, Honor Marie is 12-1 on the morning line and has the eight post.

Dornoch (Good Magic) is 15-1 on the morning line and starts in post position six for trainer Danny Gargan and owners West Paces Racing LLC, R.A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, LLC, Two Eight Racing, LLC and Pine Racing Stables. He is coming off a 10th place finish in the Kentucky Derby and will be ridden by Luis Saez.

Trainer Mike Maker returns to the Belmont for the first time since 2014 with The Wine Steward (Vino Rosso). He was second as the favorite in the Peter Pan in his last start for owners Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher.

Manny Franco will ride the Wine Steward, who gets post four and is 15-1 on the morning line.

White Abarrio | Sarah Andrew

Featured earlier in the card in the GI Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan H. is the return of both last year’s GI Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic winner White Abarrio (Race Day) and this year’s GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational winner National Treasure (Quality Road). Both horses enter off a trip back from the G1 Saudi Cup where National Treasure was fourth while White Abarrio was 10th.

“He looks tremendous, to tell you the truth,” said trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. of White Abarrio. “He really does. It’s so fun to watch him train and race. He just looks great. I think he might have gotten a little bit bigger since he first came to us. I don’t know how much he’s developed since he was pretty well-developed by the time he got to us, but just little things here and there that have made him better.”

National Treasure, who shipped in from California for trainer Bob Baffert, arrived at Saratoga Sunday after getting one final work in at Santa Anita June 1.

“We got him back from Saudi and freshened him up a little bit,” said Baffert. “He’s been doing really well. This race was on the radar a little bit but after his [May 25] work I liked what I saw. He was back to himself. He worked really well again [June 1]. I liked the way he went and he’s up for it. It’s going to be a tough race, but he’s a good horse when he shows up. I like what I’m seeing.”

Completing the six-horse field for the Met Mile is Blazing Sevens (Good Magic) for trainer Chad Brown, Hoist the Gold (Mineshaft), Post Time (Frosted) and Castle Chaos (Palace Malice).

The post Belmont Draws 10; Brown’s Sierra Leone Morning-Line Favorite appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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