The Truth or Else joins Belmont Stakes mix; nine appear likely to challenge American Pharoah in his bid for the Triple Crown on June 6
ELMONT, N.Y.-- Trainer Kenny McPeek, who upset War Emblem's bid for a Triple Crown with Sarava in 2002, said Thursday morning that he will more than likely point The Truth or Else towards the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 6.
The Truth or Else, who had picked up 11 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby earlier this year, is coming out of a 1 Â½-length allowance victory over the local track on May 22, which, according to McPeek, was a major deciding factor heading into the Belmont Stakes, in which American Pharoah will be bidding to become racing's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
"My horse loves the Belmont track," said McPeek. "He has two starts and two wins on a dry track at Belmont. And he's out of a Colonial Affair mare [Lakenheath] so he should get the distance. His last race was a confidence builder. He got a good time and an excellent speed figure. His last two races have set him up for this. He really needed to win his last race, which he did."
The chestnut son of Yes It's True is owned in partnership with McPeek and New Jersey natives Harold and Helen Lerner. "The owners are from the area, which makes the race even more special," he added.
McPeek also trained Atigun, who finished third in the 2012 edition; Unstoppable U, sixth in 2012; Frac Daddy, 14th in 2013, and Pineaff, ninth in 1999.
"He's just a really solid horse," McPeek said. "The Truth or Else is bigger and stronger than both Sarava and Atigun. Weird things happen in the Belmont. You shouldn't duck one horse in a race. American Pharoah could possibly not handle the surface. You don't know. So long as it's a dry track, we'll pull the trigger."
McPeek said that two-time Belmont Stakes winner and Hall of Famer Edgar Prado will have the mount.
The field for the 1 Â½-mile Belmont Stakes is hovering at 10. On Thursday, trainer Mark Casse said Conquest Curlinate, who is stabled at Churchill Downs, would not run in the Belmont. Conquest Curlinate was not nominated to the Triple Crown and would have had to be supplemented to the Belmont for $75,000. He will be pointed instead to the Queen's Plate.
American Pharoah is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park on Tuesday, along with fellow Belmont contender Keen Ice. Coming down from Saratoga Race Course will be Frammento, trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, who won the Belmont in 2004 with Birdstone and again in 2008 with Da' Tara, both times upsetting Triple Crown hopefuls.
Scheduled to breeze Friday morning for their upcoming roles in the "Test of the Champion" are the Todd Pletcher trio of Madefromlucky, Materiality and Carpe Diem; the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Frosted, and Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve for trainer Dallas Stewart.
Mubtaahij is set to work once more this weekend before galloping up to the race.