Scenes from Friday at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival

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Friday at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival served as a great preview of the incredible
racing to come. It allowed many of the horses, trainers, jockeys, press and media
to settle in and get their bearings ahead of a massive Saturday at “Big Sandy.” As the card wound down, I caught my breath to capture some impressions of Belmont Park, from the morning training to the afternoon racing.

A
warm welcome to Belmont, that maybe displays a certain bias for the horse with
saddle towel 1, same as Justify? 

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I arrived late Thursday morning, so I missed all the crowds following
Justify around the track. But the excitement could still be felt in the air. So
I checked out my favorite horse from Saratoga, Hofburg, having settled in his
stall and also going through the routine of paddock schooling under the
watchful eye of Secretariat prior to Race 4.

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To
remind everyone what is on the line this Saturday, the silks of all 12 previous
Triple Crown winners are standing guard.

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As
the early racing gets under way, all the decorations and flags are already in
place and for a change we enjoy some long awaited sunshine.

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In
the paddock, it is good to see all the major jockeys, trainers and owners
mingle before the races. Here, Steve Asmussen and Irad Ortiz Jr. are casting
their shadows before the Astoria Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

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The Grade 3 Intercontinental Grade Stakes iwaswon by La Sardane from France with jockey
Flavien Prat up.

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Joel
Rosario and his connections exude some some joy after winning the Grade 3 Wonder Again
Grade Stakes with La Signare, the second visitor to the winner’s circle
with a French heritage.

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Friday morning, workouts started just after sunrise, with some magnificent views of the
first riders heading onto the main track

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The
first of the Belmont Stakes contenders, Bravazo, was led onto the main track by
legendary trainer Wayne Lukas, and set the tone for the day with some energy,
even visible for a casual gallop.

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Next
up was the Baffert horse. Yes, hold your breath…Restoring Hope, who also
showed some energy in the turn of a gentle gallop.

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I
then migrated to the training track, and when I returned to the main track just
caught Hofburg leaving for his barn, where I stayed for his extended hot walk
and shower. It was amusing to watch the daily playful catch-and-mouse game between
the groom and Hofburg trying to catch the lead line.

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On
the way back to the main track, I quickly caught a glimpse of Grade 1 Met Mile favorite Mind Your Biscuits
enjoying the fresh lush grass after his workout. He just had passed Funny Cide
as the all-time leading money earner for a New York-bred, and will headline the Saturday undercard.

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Back
on the main track it was, well, the Justify and Baffert show. Bob checked out the depth of the track while waiting for the star. But once Justify came and
galloped around the track, there was no need for words. Let’s just allow the
photography to speak.

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I
never saw as many photographers with heavy super zoom lenses sprint, or at
least attempt to, as on the way back to the barn. There it was once more the
perfect show time, with Justify curiously inspecting his own image in the
window reflection during bath time

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And
after a throw of the blanket Justify headed under the awning of the barn to be
hotwalked while Bob was patiently facing the media yet again.

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Hopefully, this quick blog provides you a glimpse of the firepower of horses,
trainers and jockeys that have converged in one place for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. More updates
will certainly follow, and who knows…maybe even about the next Triple Crown winner.



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