(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
While fans of Virginia-bred racehorses were disappointed when Quality Road’s nagging foot injury prevented him from running in the Kentucky Derby, a new potential hero for the commonwealth now looms on the horizon in Saturday’s 141st running of the third jewel of horseracing’s Triple Crown—the Belmont Stakes.
Virginia-bred Charitable Man, who has won three previous races in New York and twice on the Belmont track, is considered by many as the horse to beat in the grueling 1 ½ mile event. He bids to join 11 Virginia-bred horses that have already won the three-year-old classic.
That list includes Algerine (1876), Pasteurized (1938), Bounding Home (1944), Phalanx (1947), Sword Dancer (1959), Sherluck (1961), Quadrangle (1964), Arts and Letters (1969), Secretariat (1973), Hansel (1991) and Colonial Affair (1993).
Charitable Man and Florida Derby winner Quality Road were both born at Spring Hill Farm in Casanova, VA, but the two colts' breeder, Edward P. Evans, decided to sell Charitable Man at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Evans annually sells part of his crop of more than 60 foals to offset the expense of operating his Virginia Thoroughbred nursery and of keeping a large number of racehorses in training at various racetracks. The trick is figuring out which ones to sell and which ones to keep—a difficult task with young horses who have never worn a saddle or bridle.
Ultimately, Evans decided to keep Quality Road. The colt just missed a shot at the Derby, but has rewarded his owner/breeder with victories in the $250,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes Gr. 2 and the $750,000 Florida Derby Stakes Gr. 1 while amassing earnings of $632,830. Quality Road is back in training in New York and eyeing major stakes races later in the summer.
His stable mate, Charitable Man, was sent to the famous Lexington, KY horse auction where he was purchased for $200,000 by Mike Ryan and then sold privately to his current owners William and Suzanne Warren of Tulsa, OK. He is now trained by Kiaran McLaughlin who won the 2006 Belmont Stakes with Jazil.
Charitable Man enters the third leg of the Triple Crown following a handy win $200,000 Peter Pan Gr.2 in May. He also won the $250,000 Futurity Gr. 2 at Belmont Park as a two-year-old last September. He has won $307,200 to date, winning three times in four starts.
His only out-of-the money finish was a dismal seventh place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes Gr. 1 where he finished seventh just three weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby. Having bounced back with a victory in his next start, it is clear that the Virginia-bred colt did not like Keeneland’s synthetic racetrack. Belmont Park has a traditional dirt main track.
Such notable trainers as D. Wayne Lukas, Todd Pletcher and Nick Zito are all labeling Charitable Man the horse to beat in Saturday’s race.
Charitable Man’s jockey Alan Garcia is trying to set a record of his own—a record that also involves some prominent horses with Virginia connections. Last year, Garcia guided longshot Da' Tara to a gate-to-wire victory in the Belmont.
On Saturday, he will bid to become the eighth jockey to win back-to-back Belmont Stakes, but the first since Ron Turcotte won with Riva Ridge and Secretariat in 1972-73. Both of those horses were owned by Christopher Chenery’s Meadow Stud in Doswell, VA, and Triple Crown winner Secretariat was born at the Caroline County farm.
In addition, Garcia looks to win two Belmont Stakes in his first two attempts. Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker was the last jockey to win with his first two Belmont mounts —Gallant Man (1957) and Virginia-bred Sword Dancer (1959).
Sword Dancer was born in Fauquier County at Isabel Dodge Sloan’s Brookmeade Farm in Upperville, VA.