by Greg Melikov - 05/31/2006
For the fourth time in 44 years, it appears the Belmont Stakes on June 10 will be staged without the winner of the Kentucky Derby or Preakness.
In 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus won at Churchill Downs and ran second to Red Bullet at Pimlico, but neither raced at Belmont. The winner: Commendable.
In '70, Dust Commander triumphed in the Kentucky Derby and Personality took the Preakness, but both skipped the Belmont. High Echelon, third at Louisville, captured the third jewel of the Triple Crown.
One of the most exciting Kentucky Derby contests came in '62 when Bill Hartack guided Decidedly home ahead of 14 other 3-year-olds. It was one of Hartack's five victories in America's Race -- he's tied with Eddie Arcaro for most wins.
After skipping the Kentucky Derby, Greek Money captured the Preakness and Jaipur took the Belmont by a nose. That's the smallest margin of victory along with Granville in '36.
Once again winners of the first two Triple Crown legs won't race in the Belmont, but for different reasons: Derby champ Barbaro is recovering from a life-threatening leg injury in the Preakness while Bernardini will be rested after his impressive victory at Pimlico.
Since Bernardini broke his maiden in March, he captured the Grade 1 Withers in May and the Preakness in four career starts this year. The son of A. P. Indy will be considered for the Jim Dandy on July 29 at Saratoga, the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 6 at Monmouth Park and the Travers on Aug. 26 at Saratoga.
His ultimate goal: the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov.4 at Churchill Downs.
Barbaro is making a miraculous recovery from a broken leg. Meanwhile, Brother Derek is in California after disappointing defeats during troubled trips in Louisville and Baltimore.
There's a slim chance Sweetnorthernsaint, runner-up in the Preakness after finishing seventh in the Derby, might run. But trainer Mike Trombetta said on May 21 he would "wait 10 days or so" before deciding on the horse's future because of a minor hoof injury.
Sweetnorthernsaint "grabbed a quarter," Kent Desormeaux said after the Preakness. That means a chunk of the colt's foot was sheared away as he kicked or stepped on his on foot, the jockey said, "which is like pulling your thumb off."
There could be a large field in the Belmont, including up to 10 horses that didn't run on May 20. Deputy Glitters, eighth in Kentucky Derby after capturing the Tampa Bay Derby, will represent Albertrani.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, still seeking his first winner in Triple Crown races, will enter Sunriver, who took the Peter Pan after missing the first two contests, and Bluegrass Cat, runner-up at Churchill Downs. Pletcher also is considering High Cotton after his Sir Barton Stakes victory on Derby Day.
Conditioner Nick Zito expects Hemingway's Key to improve after the blinkers came off and the colt ran third at Pimlico. Trainer Bob Baffert enters Point Determined, eighth in the Derby, and Bob and John, a disappointing 17th.
Others committed to the 1 ½-mile race are Steppenwolfer, third in the Derby; Jazil, who dead-heated for fourth on May 6; Sacred Light, runner-up in the Santa Catalina Stakes; Platinum Couple, a distant sixth in the Preakness; and Oh So Awesome, recently acquired in France by Team Valor after finishing third in Belmont's the Match the Hatch Stakes.
Under consideration are Lewis Michael, runner-up in the Peter Pan; Cause to Believe, 13th in the Derby; plus High Finance and Wilentz.
The 138th running could see one of the largest Belmont fields since 1996 when Editor's Note whipped 13 other horses. The next largest field with also 14 runners was in 1875 when Calvin defeated Aristides in 1875 after his stablemate won the inaugural Kentucky Derby.
The largest field was 15 in 1983 when Caveat defeated Slew o' Gold by 3 ½ lengths.