Belmont field may grow to 16 horses

ELMONT, N.Y. — ELMONT, N.Y. -- The prospective field for the 125th Belmont Stakes seems to grow each day.

As of yesterday, 14 horses were certain and 16 possible for Saturday's race. Just last weekend, a dozen runners were expected, headed by Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners Sea Hero and Prairie Bayou, respectively.


If 16 run, it would be the largest Belmont field since 15 horses ran in 1983, the year the race was won by Maryland-bred Caveat.

In addition to the burgeoning field, the jockeys seem to be involved in a game of musical saddles.


Pat Day, who was suspended for five days (June 3-9) for careless riding at Churchill Downs last Saturday, will not appeal the suspension, which precludes him from riding in the Belmont.

Day was scheduled to ride Cherokee Run, the Preakness runner-up, in the Belmont. Now Frank Alexander, the horse's trainer, has lined up Chris Antley to replace Day.

But that leaves Leon Blusiewicz, the Pimlico-based trainer of Raglan Road, without a jockey. Blusiewicz had originally put Antley on his horse.

Day, who has never appealed a suspension, has discussed the matter several times with Alexander since Saturday.

"I feel very strongly about the suspension process, and the decision had to be something that I could live with," Day said.

"I understand where he's coming from," Alexander added. "But both the owner [Jill E. Robinson] and I are very disappointed. But Pat is Pat. He doesn't believe in appeals, although he wants to try a get a rule through where a jockey in just this type of situation could ride in designated races, such as Grade I's. That kind of rule certainly makes sense. We could have ended up with a second-rate rider in the Belmont, and that's not fair to the owners.

"But we are very comfortable with Chris. He worked the horse for me both before and after the Preakness, and he was on him this morning [yesterday, when he worked a half-mile in 49 3/5 seconds].

"He knows the horse and I feel like we're in good hands."


At least four other horses will have different jockeys for the Belmont.

Jorge Chavez replaces Wigberto Ramos on Bull inthe Heather.

Aaron Gryder is bumped off Antrim Rd. in favor of Richard Migliore.

Robbie Davis replaces Eddie Maple on Only Alpha.

And Kent Desormeaux gets the mount on Arinthod, replacing Freddie Head, who rode the colt in France.

The Belmont could resemble this year's Derby, where the top four horses were capable of getting the marathon distance and the rest of the bulky field was stragglers.


"Or you might call them a bunch of second-class citizens," said Alexander, trainer of Cherokee Run.

Bull inthe Heather, declared out last week, is now back in along with Only Alpha, a California-based 3-year-old who has only had one career win. The horse is owned by Washington Redskins boss Jack Kent Cooke and is trained by D. M. "Speedy" Smithwick Jr., the 33-year-old son of Hall of Fame steeplechase trainer, D. M. Smithwick, who lives in Baltimore County.

Only Alpha is a son of multiple turf stakes winner Alphabatim.