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ELMONT, NY – When Dr Post and Farmington Road enter the gate for Saturday’s $1 million Belmont Stakes (G1), the pair will be strong contenders to give trainer Todd Pletcher his fourth victory in the famed race at Belmont Park.
Pletcher won his first edition of the Belmont Stakes in 2007, when Rags to Riches became just the third winning filly in the event’s 151-year history, beating future super-sire Curlin by a head. Palace Malice upset Orb and Oxbow – the respective Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winners – in 2013 to give Pletcher his second, and Tapwrit most recently got the job done in 2017.
Dr Post and Farmington Road are both sons of Quality Road, himself a Pletcher trainee for most of his career who won 4 Grade 1s between ages 3 and 4. According to Pletcher, however, that is as far as their similarities go.
Dr Post raced just once as a juvenile, finishing fourth behind fellow Belmont contender Tap It to Win, but he returned with a big effort to win a 7-furlong dirt sprint at Gulfstream Park. He remained stationed there for the inaugural Unbridled Stakes, where he had to fight through traffic and endure a less-than-ideal trip but still found success after stalking the pace.
“Dr Post is doing great,” Pletcher said. “The longer we have him, the more he reminds us of his sire, Quality Road. He looks a lot like him. He showed some versatility already breaking his maiden at 7 furlongs and coming back in a stake in his second start of the year. Going a mile and 1/16, (he) encountered a lot of traffic that day and was still able to win. He seems to have moved forward in his training since then.”
Dr Post will likely stalk expected pacesetters Tap It to Win and Fore Left. Though he is lightly-raced, Pletcher felt that the Unbridled gave him a good education that prepared him well for this bigger test.
“The thing we really liked about the Unbridled was, especially leading into a race like the Belmont, it was only his second start of the year and third career start, but he got so much out of that race and so much education it was almost like an extra start,” Pletcher said. “I’m hoping that will pay dividends because he’s giving up some seasoning and experience to some really nice horses, but we felt like we got a lot out of the Unbridled.”
Unlike his stablemate, Farmington Road’s running style is to drop to the rear and make one long, sustained rally toward the front. With Belmont Park’s wide, sweeping turn and long stretch run, Pletcher thought that he would be best suited for the Belmont’s original 1 1/2-mile distance.
Still, he is confident that he can handle the shorter 1 1/8 miles on Saturday.
“We felt like he could be the horse that would really enjoy the mile-and-a-half,” Pletcher said. “But since that’s not an option we’re hoping that the mile-and-an-eighth, if he gets a good honest pace to run at, he would certainly benefit from that. He’s got a patented style; he’s going to drop back and make one run. We just need a good solid pace to come back to him a little bit.”
Farmington Road is the much more seasoned runner of the two, having finished fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and the Rebel Stakes (G2), as well as second in the Oaklawn Stakes. Though he missed the board by a decent margin, Pletcher believes that Farmington Road’s Arkansas Derby effort was better than it looks on paper.
“Solid effort in the Arkansas Derby and I think it was a tough track to make up a lot of ground,” Pletcher said. “He’s got a good three-eighths mile run and we have to time it just right. The main thing is getting a track that suits that style and an honest pace. That’s what he really needs.”
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