Brooklyn Strong to skip Belmont, may target Pegasus

Saturday, May 29th, 2021

Grade 2 winner Brooklyn Strong won’t run in next week’s Belmont Stakes. Nikki Sherman Photo.

By Paul Halloran

Trainer Danny Velazquez hoped last week’s mediocre work for Brooklyn Strong was an aberration and that the gelding would bounce back this week and show him he was ready for a start in next week’s Belmont Stakes. When Velazquez didn’t see what he was looking for, he and owner Mark Schwartz made the difficult decision to skip the third jewel of the Triple Crown.

“I didn’t see him hitting the marks I wanted him to hit this week,” said Velazquez, who canceled Saturday’s scheduled work at Parx Racing after he and Schwartz made the decision not to run in the Belmont. “I didn’t want to push him into this work. We’ll look at other options going forward.”

A New York-bred 3-year-old gelding by Wicked Strong out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Riviera Chic, Brooklyn Strong worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.25 last Saturday, three weeks after running 15th in the Kentucky Derby. Velazquez was not thrilled with the work, but since the track was slow, he was hoping the horse would bounce back this week.

“We’ve been doing what we want to do so far,” Velazquez said, “not necessarily what the horse wants to do. We could run. He’s healthy and I could have put a strong work in him today. But what’s the point if we’re not 100-percent sure he’s ready. He’s a young horse with plenty of racing ahead of him. I don’t want to break his spirit just to make a race.”

Velazquez said he has “no regrets” about taking a shot in the Derby, after Brooklyn Strong somehow got in with only 10 qualifying points. “It was a great experience. Now, we have to reel it in and be realistic. He just needs a little time. We will be running somewhere next month.”

Schwartz and Velazquez have yet to see the return of the horse that closed his 2-year-old campaign by winning the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes while recoding a 94 Beyer Speed Figure.

“It’s disappointing,” said Schwartz, a Brooklyn native who was looking forward to running a horse in New York’s signature race. “This was the race I always wanted him to run, since the Remsen. I thought the distance (1 1/2miles) would fit him perfect. But you’re not going to run in this race if you don’t think he’s 100 percent.”

Schwartz said they are considering the June 13 $150,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park, a race for 3-year-olds in which the top two finishers earn free entry into the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes July 17. There is also a $100,000 allowance at Belmont that may go on June 20.

“Danny thinks he will be ready in a few weeks,” Schwartz said. “This makes sense. It’s disappointing, but it’s the right thing to do for the horse.”

Brooklyn Strong was bred by Cheryl Prudhomme and her husband, Dr. Michael Gallivan, and foaled at their Shamrock Hill Farm in Fort Edward. Prudhomme and Gallivan sold him as a weanling. Schwartz bought him for $5,000 at the 2020 OBS Spring 2-year-old sale.

After breaking his maiden at Delaware Park, Brooklyn Strong ran third in the Bertram Bongard and won the Sleepy Hollow. He took on open company in the Remsen and got up just before the wire to earn the 10 Derby qualifying points.

Notes: Laobanonaprayer, another New York-bred trained by Velazquez, will run in the Bouwerie Stakes for 3-year-old state-bred fillies on Monday’s Big Apple Showcase card at Belmont.

Laobanonaprayer, by Laoban out of the Raffie’s Majesty mare Raffie’s Chance, was bred by Christina Deronda and is owned in partnership by Velazquez, Schwartz and Larry Rush. The filly, who captured two state-bred stakes as a 2-year-old, will be looking for her first win this year, after running second and sixth in New York-bred stakes, with a fourth against open company in the Busher Invitational sandwiched between them.

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