Belmont Stakes: Number nine for Bluegrass Cat


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The No. 9 is one of the most prestigious in sports. Think of “The Splendid Splinter” Ted Williams and “Mr. Elbows” Gordie Howe. Bluegrass Cat’s name might never be mentioned alongside those immortals, but at least on Saturday he’ll be wearing the same number.

The Kentucky Derby runner-up has drawn post position No. 9 for the Belmont Stakes. He’s also the early favorite to take the third jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown, a shade ahead of fellow Todd Pletcher trainee Sunriver in the No. 2 position. They’ll be competing in a tentative field of 12 horses. The last time the Belmont had that many entrants was 1999, when Lemon Drop Kid helped spoil Charismatic’s Triple Crown bid. However, Platinum Couple (on the rail) may scratch in order to compete in Friday’s Hill Prince Stakes, and Deputy Glitters (in the 7-hole) may be pulled out if track conditions are muddy.

Bluegrass Cat and Sunriver both worked out Monday at Belmont, while most of the rest of the field decided to postpone their workouts due to overnight rains. But it looks like rain is in the forecast for the rest of the week. That could be especially good news for Bluegrass Cat. Back in March, Deputy Glitters won the Tampa Bay Derby by two lengths over Bluegrass Cat. That was in relatively good conditions; in his only two starts in the mud, Deputy Glitters performed poorly. Trainer Tom Albertrani, who also trains Preakness winner Bernardini, won’t hesitate to pull his horse from the Belmont if the weather doesn’t suit him.

“As long as it doesn’t rain, I think we have a chance,” Albertrani told reporters Wednesday as the post positions were announced. “Hopefully, the weather will cooperate … we know he doesn’t like the mud.”

Pletcher, meanwhile, is happy with the way things are developing for both his horses. Bluegrass Cat was intentionally held out of the Preakness in order to give him a full five weeks of rest in between races. Three of the last six Belmont winners did the same: Birdstone in 2004, Empire Maker in 2003 and Commendable in 2000. Bluegrass Cat is also undefeated in two career appearances at Belmont, both as a 2-year-old. Sunriver, meanwhile, is coming off a win at the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan Stakes on May 20, again at Belmont. Sunriver is likewise well-rested after having to miss out on the Kentucky Derby due to a lack of graded-stakes earnings.

The full tentative Belmont field, in order of position starting from the rail, is Platinum Couple, Sunriver, Hemingway’s Key, Bob and John, High Finance, Oh So Awesome, Deputy Glitters, Jazil, Bluegrass Cat, Double Galore, Steppenwolfer and Sacred Light.

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