Before the 124th Belmont Stakes, there was concern about A.P. Indy’s left front hoof.
“The patch?” said trainer Neil Drysdale last week, repeating a question about the fiberglass reinforcement used to repair a small, almost invisible crack in A.P. Indy’s hoof. “I think about it every day. I look at it every day.”
That was no patchwork job turned in by A.P. Indy and Eddie Delahoussaye on Saturday. The horse who skipped the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness because of the hoof injury wore down Pine Bluff, the Preakness winner, in the stretch to win the $764,800 Belmont by three-quarters of a length before 50,204. His time of 2:26 was the second-fastest time in the history of the 1 1/2-mile race, behind Secretariat’s 2:24 when he won the Triple Crown in 1973.
On a drying-out track that was officially changed from muddy to good shortly before the race, Pine Bluff, sent off as the 7-2 second choice despite his victory at Pimlico three weeks ago, had shaken off Casual Lies in their battle for the lead.
“I had an awful strong feeling at the head of the lane,” said jockey Chris McCarron, who rode Pine Bluff for the first time in the Preakness.
A.P. Indy, five lengths behind with three-quarters of a mile to go, moved up off Pine Bluff’s right flank, a half-length behind, with an eighth of a mile to run. Gaining outside both of them was My Memoirs, the English-based colt making his debut on dirt. He was supplemented into the race at a cost of $50,000 by his 15 California owners.
For a while, it appeared that Pine Bluff was going to hold on. For a while, it appeared that My Memoirs, sixth with a half-mile to run, might outrun both Pine Bluff and A.P. Indy.
Delahoussaye, who won the Belmont with Risen Star in 1988, is a deceptive rider, however and was confident of holding off My Memoirs.
“I looked at the rerun and it showed that I hit my horse five times,” Delahoussaye said later. “Most riders probably would have hit him 20 times in a spot like that.”
McCarron was whipping furiously, trying to keep Pine Bluff going. “I thought my colt was going to hang on, because the first couple of times I tapped him with the stick, he responded very well,” McCarron said. “I switched and hit him with the left hand, and he gave me some more. We just got outrun from the eighth pole.”
A.P. Indy took the lead with about 100 yards to run. “I thought I was the winner turning for home,” said My Memoirs’ jockey, Jerry Bailey, who won the Belmont with Hansel last year. “Eddie had just enough horse and he rated him really well. He deserves a lot of credit. He sat chilly and knew he had enough.”
Before the Belmont, A.P. Indy’s record consisted of a fourth-place finish in his first race, at Del Mar last August, and six consecutive victories, including the Santa Anita Derby on April 4. In his previous start, he won the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont two weeks ago.
Saturday’s victory was worth $458,880 and increased A.P. Indy’s purses to $1.2 million for Tomonori Tsurumaki, the Tokyo businessman who bought him at a Keeneland yearling auction for $2.9 million.
A.P. Indy, the favorite, paid $4.20. He is a son of Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown champion, and Weekend Surprise, who produced Summer Squall, the 1990 Preakness winner. Seattle Slew also sired Swale, the Belmont winner in 1984.
My Memoirs, saddled by Richard Hannon, his English trainer, finished a neck in front of Pine Bluff and is headed for California, where Ron McAnally will take over his training.
Pine Bluff wound up with the biggest paycheck of the day, earning the $1-million Triple Crown bonus. Fifth in the Derby, he finished with 13 bonus points, five more than Casual Lies, who after running second in the Derby and third in the Preakness was fifth Saturday. Casual Lies, who dueled Agincourt for the lead through the speedy first mile of the Belmont, was the only other horse eligible for the bonus, having run in all of the Triple Crown races.
“At the three-eighths pole, I asked him to run and he just chucked it,” said Gary Stevens, Casual Lies’ jockey. “There was no response. He ran like he was a little bit tired.”
After the race, owner-trainer Shelley Riley said that Casual Lies suffered a crack in his left front hoof, not unlike the one A.P. Indy suffered before the Derby. “It’s pretty bad,” Riley said. “He’s bleeding all over. . . . We’re shipping back to California on Monday.”
Cristofori, the French horse making his United States debut under Steve Cauthen, the American expatriate who had won the Triple Crown with Affirmed in 1978, finished fourth, beaten by more than 14 lengths. He was 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Casual Lies, followed by Colony Light, Agincourt, Montreal Marty, Robert’s Hero, Al Sabin and Jacksonport.
Drysdale has declined to speculate about what his horse might have done in the Derby and Preakness, and stuck with that position Saturday.
“It’s all could have, would have, might have,” he said.
Delahoussaye came close to winning the Triple Crown with Risen Star, who was a hard-luck third in the Derby before winning the Preakness. “I knew A.P. Indy was a true athlete even when he got beat at Del Mar,” Delahoussaye said Saturday. “I think he would have been the Triple Crown winner, but we’ll never know.”
An undescended testicle was removed from A.P. Indy shortly after his loss at Del Mar. The horse’s career as a stallion is not expected to be affected.
While some trainers at Belmont fretted about the water-soaked condition of Belmont last week, the California-based Drysdale, having skipped a Monday workout because of the wet track and not wanting to postpone a six-furlong exercise beyond Tuesday, vanned A.P. Indy 10 miles to Aqueduct. His time of 1:17 3/5 was slow, but Drysdale said that it was exactly what A.P. Indy needed.
About an hour before the Belmont, Drysdale walked the track and then huddled with Delahoussaye about strategy. Drysdale had heard that Casual Lies, in a departure, would go for the lead and told Delahoussaye that Agincourt would be on the lead, too. Drysdale also cautioned Delahoussaye, who figured to be on the rail after breaking from the inside post, that McCarron and Pine Bluff might try to trap them on the fence down the backside.
That is why Delahoussaye backed off the leaders as the field neared the far turn. Pine Bluff was third, behind Casual Lies and Agincourt. “Chris tried to trap me, and I can’t blame him,” Delahoussaye said. “He was looking for me. I came around McCarron, and it worked out perfect. The horse came through.”