With no Triple Crown in play, Belmont lacks a singular buzz
BALTIMORE (AP) Cloud Computing stole the Preakness, and any hope of a Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.
The 13-1 shot did it on six weeks' rest, having skipped the 20-horse roughhouse that is the Kentucky Derby even though he had enough points to get in that race. With another three weeks until the Belmont in New York, Cloud Computing could return to run on his home track.
''We haven't ruled it out,'' trainer Chad Brown said Sunday. ''We're just going to evaluate the horse this week and probably by next weekend we may have a decision.''
Cloud Computing didn't race as a 2-year-old because of injury, so he is among the freshest horses out there.
Brown prefers to give his horses a month or more between starts. Trainer Todd Pletcher also favors long layoffs, although he made an exception to run Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming back in two weeks. The colt responded with an eighth-place finish - the worst of his career - on Saturday.
''He looks good, bright, alert, sound, healthy, happy,'' Pletcher said. ''We'll head to Belmont and regroup.''
If the Derby and Preakness winners skip the Belmont on June 10, the likely favorite would be Classic Empire, who was runner-up Saturday after finishing fourth in the Derby.
It would be the first time since 2010 that neither the Derby nor Preakness winner run in the Belmont. That year, Derby winner Super Saver, trained by Pletcher, and Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky sat out the third leg.
Trainer Mark Casse said Classic Empire is being pointed toward the Belmont, barring any unforeseen developments.
''He was a better horse yesterday than he was two weeks ago for the Kentucky Derby,'' he said.
Among other horses likely for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont - the longest of the Triple Crown races - are: Senior Investment (third in Preakness), Lookin At Lee (fourth in Preakness) and Japanese invader Epicharis.
Lookin At Lee finished second in the Derby, when Classic Empire was fourth.
Classic Empire and Lookin At Lee would face off for the sixth time in the Belmont, and they could be the only horses to run in all three Triple Crown races. Classic Empire has three victories against Lookin At Lee, including this year's Arkansas Derby.
''You're looking at horses that traveled at 2, ran at as high a level as we have, so you're not surprised,'' said Steve Asmussen, who trains Lookin At Lee and won last year's Belmont with Creator.
''They've been able to maintain themselves physically. That puts them in a different position than horses who have not consistently run on that stage.''
Possible Belmont starters are Multiplier (sixth in Preakness) and Conquest Mo Money (seventh in Preakness). Gunnevera (fifth in Preakness) and Hence (ninth in Preakness) won't run in the Belmont.
Epicharis, one of the top 3-year-olds in Japan, will make his North American debut in the $1.5 million Belmont. That would make him eligible for a new $1 million bonus offered by the New York Racing Association to any Japan-based winner of the race. The winner's share of the purse is $800,000.
Epicharis would be the second Japanese horse to run in the Belmont. Last year, Lani finished third after running in all three legs of the Triple Crown.