It is Time for the Belmont Stakes

Everyone has been waiting anxiously for 7 June 2008 and the running of the 140th Belmont Stakes. This year the tension has been felt throughout the racing community, as many hold their breaths for Big Brown to become the next Triple Crown winner. Horses with the capability to challenge the winner of the Preakness and Kentucky Derby, such as Casino Drive, patiently bide their time until race day to show their worth. And while most spectators have been worried about finding a good seat tomorrow, it has been business as usual behind the scenes.

A scramble for jockeys ensued with the news from Todd Pletcher that Ready’s Echo will be participating in the Belmont Stakes. Nick Zito released John Velazquez from his duties to pilot Anak Nakal, as Pletcher is the main client to Velazquez and Zito understood his commitment and loyalty to Pletcher. The decision to release Velazquez was made by both Nick Zito and Anak Nakal owner, Kassem Masri. Julien Leparoux was chosen to pilot Anak Nakal, while jockey Alan Garcia will be aboard Da’ Tara, Zito’s second entrant in the Belmont.

In the Big Brown camp the mood has improved, as Big Brown seems to have recovered from his quarter crack hoof injury and showed no signs of discomfort on Tuesday, 3 June 2008, as he breezed his five furlongs with ease in front of approximately two hundred curious spectators and members of the media. When asked about the possible threat of Casino Drive, trainer Rick Dutrow replied: "I don't have a good fix on that horse, but I know that the horse is not at the top of his game. There's no way. I've seen this horse. My friends around the stables have seen this horse. There's just no way this horse can beat Big Brown in a horse race. That's impossible." Racing manager for Casino Drive, Nobutaka Tada, commented, “He seems to know our horse better than we do”, as the media pushed him for a response on Dutrow’s comments. But on race day, it is not up to the trainers, it is the horses that make it happen. Tomorrow, the best horse on the day will win.

On Wednesday, the 4th of June 2008, the ten contenders for the Belmont Stakes were confirmed and post positions were drawn. The listing for the 2008 Belmont Stakes are: Big Brown who will be breaking from the rail in gate 1, surprise late entrant Guadalcanal and jockey Javier Castellano in gate 2, Macho Again in gate 3, Denis of Cork from gate 4, Casino Drive in gate 5, Da’ Tara in gate 6, Tale of Ekati in gate 7, Anak Nakal in gate 8, Ready’s Echo in gate 9 and Icabad Crane in gate 10. The three favorites for winning the $600 000 first place is said to be Big Brown, Casino Drive and Denis of Cork. Second place will receive $200 000. And as the horses and their trainers work through their last minute checks, spectators and fans will be holding onto their seats in anticipation for the big moment – The Belmont Stakes.

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