Local Connections Abound in Belmont

Local interest in the Belmont Stakes will be especially high this year, as five of the 12 entrants have strong connections to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and Louisiana racing. Among the contenders are Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, owned by a partnership that includes four Northshore businessmen; Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro, second in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (Gr. II) for legendary Fair Grounds trainer Steve Asmussen; Kentucky Derby third Mucho Macho Man, winner of the Risen Star Stakes (Gr. II) at Fair Grounds and third in the Louisiana Derby; Kentucky Derby sixth Santiva, second in the Risen Star for trainer Eddie Kenneally, a Fair Grounds regular, and top Fair Grounds jockey Shaun Bridgmohan; and new shooter Prime Cut, an allowance winner on Louisiana Derby Day for Fair Grounds Hall of Fame trainer Neil Howard.

Fans can watch and wager on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes – the third and final leg of racing’s Triple Crown – at Fair Grounds or any of 10 Fair Grounds OTB locations throughout Southeast Louisiana, all of which will open early at 10 a.m. (all times CDT). First post from Belmont Park is 10:35 a.m. and the featured Belmont Stakes, slated as Race 11 on a 13-race program, is set for 5:36 p.m.

Advance wagering on the entire Belmont Stakes Day program will be available Friday at Fair Grounds and Fair Grounds OTBs. Wagering highlights include the special “Brooklyn-Belmont Double,” linking Friday’s Brooklyn Handicap with Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, and guaranteed $1 million pools in Saturday’s All Graded Stakes Pick 4 and All Graded Stakes Pick 6.

For more information on Fair Grounds OTB locations, visit FairGroundsRaceCourse.com.

Animal Kingdom was installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite at Wednesday morning’s post position draw. The son of Leroidesanimaux will break from post No. 9 with John Velazquez aboard for trainer Graham Motion, who won the Grade II Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds on Louisiana Derby Day with Smart Bid just minutes before stablemate Animal Kingdom earned his way to the Derby with a win in the Spiral Stakes (Gr. III) at Turfway Park. Nehro was made the second choice at 4-1, breaking from post No. 6 with Corey Nakatani in the irons. Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford – breaking from the outside post No. 12 with Jesus Castanon up – is  the third choice at 9-2.

Trainer Kelly Breen and owners George and Lori Hall, who won Fair Grounds’ first $1 million race, the Louisiana Derby, with Pants On Fire, are represented in the Belmont with 20-1 longshot Ruler On Ice, coming off a second-place finish in Pimlico’s Frederico Tessio Stakes.

Here’s the full field for the Belmont Stakes, for 3-year-olds at 1 ½ miles, from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Master of Hounds (Garrett Gomez, Aidan O’Brien, 10-1); Stay Thirsty (Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher, 20-1); Ruler On Ice (Jose Valdivia Jr., Kelly Breen, 20-1); Santiva (Shaun Bridgmohan, Eddie Kenneally, 15-1); Brilliant Speed (Joel Rosario, Tom Albertrani, 15-1); Nehro (Corey Nakatani, Steve Asmussen, 4-1); Monzon (Jose Lezcano, Ignacio Correas IV, 30-1); Prime Cut (Edgar Prado, Neil Howard, 15-1); Animal Kingdom (John Velazquez, Graham Motion, 2-1); Mucho Macho Man (Ramon Dominguez, Kathy Ritvo, 10-1); Isn’t He Perfect (Rajiv Maragh, Doodnauth Shivmangal, 30-1); and Shackleford (Jesus Castanon, Dale Romans, 9-2).