ELMONT, N.Y. -- When a dozen horses are entered this morning for the 127th Belmont Stakes, expect a surprise entrant with a Maryland connection.
Gene Weymouth, a former steeplechase rider whose lean, lanky figure has been a fixture at the local tracks for years, confirmed yesterday that he is going to take on Timber Country and Thunder Gulch in the 1 1/2 -mile classic with Buckland Farm's Colonial Secretary.
About 10 days ago Colonial Secretary was an also-ran on the turf at Pimlico. He's going to be one of the longest shots in the Belmont field and is making his stakes debut in the third leg of the Triple Crown. But that's not deterring Weymouth.
"The owner [Thomas Mellon Evans] wants to run," Weymouth said. "[Evans] is getting up in years and wants to give the race another shot. He's had the Belmont in mind all year for this horse and we're going in it. One thing we do know about the colt: He can run all day."
Colonial Secretary might be short on stakes experience, but Weymouth has lined up a veteran jockey, Jose Santos, to handle him.
It will be Santos' eighth Belmont Stakes trip. His best effort to date was a second with another colt whose strong suit is stamina - Kissin Kris, the runner-up two years ago to Colonial Affair.
Weymouth, who stables his horses at the Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County, is frank when he describes the colt. This is no Billy Boniface predicting before the Preakness that Oliver's Twist, who finished second, is going to win.
"[Colonial Secretary] is eligible for a '2 other than' [allowance condition for horses that haven't won two races] and in his last start he ran a bad race on the turf," Weymouth said. "But we've pretty well established he just doesn't like grass. But we do feel he'll get the 1 1/2 -mile distance on the dirt."
Even though Colonial Secretary will be a 99-1 shot, he is no Itron, the obscurely-bred Texas colt that finished last in the Preakness.
Colonial Secretary is a son of Evans' 1981 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony, and is out of a daughter of Triple Crown winner Secretariat.
It's hard to find more classic breeding than that.
The Belmont is the one Triple Crown race that has eluded Evans. The octogenarian owner/breeder, whose Buckland Farm is a Virginia showplace, has won both the Derby and Preakness, but has failed in six previous Belmont attempts. Pleasant Colony finished third in 1981 and sired the the 1993 winner, Colonial Affair, who was owned by Centennial Farm.
Weymouth started training a division of Evans' outfit over a year ago and has 13 Buckland head at Fair Hill. Evans also has horses at Belmont Park with Angel Cordero Jr. and in California with Christopher Speckert.
The Belmont field is expected to consist of heavily-favored Timber Country and Thunder Gulch, and rounding out the group are the Irish colt Off'N'Away, Star Standard, Citadeed, Knockadoon, Wild Syn, Composer, Ave's Flag, Is Sveikatas, Colonial Secretary and Pana Brass.
Five oppose Serena's Song
Black Eyed-Susan winner Serena's Song is being reunited tomorrow with jockey Gary Stevens in the $200,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park.
Stevens substituted for the filly's regular jockey, Corey Nakatani, who was serving a suspension when the horse ran three weeks ago at Pimlico. But trainer D. Wayne Lukas has opted to keep Stevens on the filly after her nine-length Pimlico score.
Only five fillies have been entered to run against her. They are Golden Bri, So Cheerful, Love Tunnel, Ravishing Rachel and Forested.