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Stevens Is Spoiler This Time

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gary Stevens got the mount on Victory Gallop after Alex Solis had ridden the colt to a win in the Arkansas Derby and a close second-place finish behind Real Quiet in the Kentucky Derby.

The Preston brothers--Jack, Art and J.R.--who own Victory Gallop and their trainer, Elliott Walden, weren’t critical of Solis, who had the horse wide the entire trip at Churchill Downs. It was simply that Hall of Famer Stevens was available. He had already won five Triple Crown races--the Kentucky Derby with Winning Colors, Thunder Gulch and Silver Charm, the Preakness with Silver Charm and the Belmont with Thunder Gulch.

This is how the game is. Stevens and Victory Gallop won Saturday’s Belmont, beating Real Quiet and trainer Bob Baffert, and next Saturday Baffert will give Stevens a leg up on Silver Charm in a $750,000 race at Churchill Downs.

With Silver Charm, it was Stevens who came up short against Touch Gold in last year’s Belmont. Second place blew away the $5-million Triple Crown bonus, and Stevens’ $500,000 share.

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“I know what [Kent Desormeaux, Real Quiet’s jockey] is feeling,” Stevens said Saturday. “He feels like he let the whole country down. But I don’t see this as a vindication for last year. This was a different year, a different race. I wasn’t the spoiler. I just was out to win the Belmont for a great trainer and a great bunch of owners. I’ll still be riding Silver Charm next Saturday.”

Sitting nearby, Walden cracked:

“You think so?”

After Silver Charm lost the Belmont, Stevens took off for two weeks in England, to ride at Ascot and tend to some other things.

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“It’ll be different for Kent,” Stevens said. “At least I got to live out the nightmare out of the country.”

Like Baffert, Stevens wouldn’t criticize Desormeaux for his ride on Real Quiet, even though Desormeaux himself suggested he might have done better.

“I’m real tough on myself when I finish second in any race, so I can relate to what Kent’s thinking,” Stevens said. “When you leave the jocks’ room for a race like this, you’re carrying the weight of the world with you. It’s more pressure than you can imagine. Kent won the Derby and the Preakness by making the same middle move that he did with Real Quiet [Saturday]. If he gets knocked for this one, I wouldn’t pay much attention to it if I were in his situation.”

Before the photo finish was developed, Stevens got on the phone to the stewards upstairs, explaining his foul claim against Real Quiet and Desormeaux.

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“They told me that it looked like Real Quiet came out and bumped my horse hard,” Stevens said. “He did make serious contact. Three or four strides from the wire, that could have cost me the race if it would have been my horse that came up a nose short. I’m glad the stewards didn’t have to make that decision. It would have been a bad situation.”

Horse Racing Notes

Bob Baffert is still 0-for-New York. He’s winless with seven starts at Belmont Park and one at Aqueduct. . . . Elliott Walden said Victory Gallop’s next probable start is the $1-million Haskell Handicap at Monmouth Park on Aug. 9. Baffert will run Indian Charlie, the Santa Anita Derby winner who finished third in the Kentucky Derby. . . . Also headed for the Haskell is Coronado’s Quest, who won Saturday’s $136,750 Riva Ridge Stakes by 3 1/3 lengths. . . . Other winners on the Belmont undercard were Chief Bearhart in the $250,000 Manhattan Handicap; Richter Scale, who finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Trafalger in the $138,600 True North Handicap; and Witchful Thinking in the $157,325 Just A Game Breeders’ Cup Handicap.


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