Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan on track for Belmont Stakes

Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up Mystik Dan is on track to run in the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga on June 8, trainer Kenny McPeek said Thursday.

McPeek is not yet ready to commit to entering Mystik Dan, much like he waited on his decision in the Preakness, but he figures to make the call by the end of the weekend.

"We want to run," McPeek said on a conference call with reporters hosted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. "We do. We've just got to make sure that all boxes are checked and T's are crossed and I's are dotted."

Mystik Dan in the Belmont would set up a rematch against Derby second-place finisher Sierra Leone and Preakness winner Seize the Grey, who are also likely to be in the field. He would be the first horse since War of Will five years ago to take part in all three Triple Crown races, a rarity for those who don't win each of the first two.

McPeek's confidence comes from how well Mystik Dan came out of the Preakness on May 18 and handled the track at Saratoga Race Course since vanning there a couple of days afterward.

"The horse has been in a happy routine up to now," McPeek said. "He doesn't act up. He simply goes about his work every day, and he's very uneventful. The only thing he does fast is breeze and race, so we're going to keep an eye on that. I need to see a good work out of him, I need to see him eat up good and I'd like to see his bloodwork come back flawless."

If Mystik Dan is not Belmont-bound, McPeek intends to run Kentucky Oaks-winning filly Thorpedo Anna against the colts. Only 24 fillies have run in the Belmont and three have won - Ruthless in 1867, Tanya in 1905 and Rags to Riches in 2007 - the race that is traditionally contested at 1 1/2 miles.

"(She has) the high-level talent," McPeek said. "She won the Oaks so easily, and I do think she would be capable of being very competitive against the colts. But we're not going to run them against each other."

The Belmont will be 1 1/4 miles this year because of the shape of the track at Saratoga, which is home to the race this year and next because the final Triple Crown leg's traditional home downstate in New York is undergoing a $455 million reconstruction. The shorter distance is a big reason why McPeek is considering Mystik Dan for a third major race in five weeks.

Same goes for Chad Brown-trained Sierra Leone, who finished a nose back in the Derby, and 88-year-old Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas' Seize the Grey.

"The horse has been training great," Brown said of Sierra Leone, who will have a new jockey in Flavien Prat. "He bounced out of the Kentucky Derby in really good order. I've been very pleased with how he's training at Saratoga. He has one more breeze on Saturday, and then all the important work will be done for him."

Brown is also considering Tuscan Gold, who finished fourth among eight horses in the Preakness after not taking to the Pimlico track well. A final decision is also coming after Tuscan Gold works out Saturday, before the Belmont post position draw Monday.

Seize the Grey should be in it after pulling off the Preakness upset, which came two weeks after he won the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard at Churchill Downs.

"What you try to do with these horses in the spring is try to get them to progress positively every race," Lukas said. "It just fell right into place. Now we've got that one under our belt, and we're in real good shape going into the Belmont at a mile and a quarter."