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Friday, June 10, 2011
The red-eye to New York


DUARTE, Calif. -- It's the day before the Belmont Stakes and I'll hop a red-eye from the West Coast, be at the track in New York by 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. I'm riding Master of Hounds in the big race and I think he's a legitimate contender. He was one I wanted to get back on after we ran fifth by 5 lengths in the Kentucky Derby.

I feel like the Belmont will suit this horse really well. At a mile and a half, he's got just enough gears to be able to handle that kind of distance here in America. This is a little more steadily run race than the Derby, and he's made for that kind of contest. Now whether all these horses that ran good at Churchill Downs will come back and run better than him again is another question, but the Derby was his first trip on dirt and he took everything very well; I was excited with the way he took kickback in his face for his first time, and I felt he deserved another chance at these same horses with a little more experience under him now.

What I know about the Belmont Stakes has pretty much been summed up in last year's blog, where I talked about different strategies and ways riders tackle the race. I enjoy riding at Belmont because it's different; it's such a big, wide oval, and it has a different surface than any track in the U.S. as far as how deep and sandy it is. We don't ride in quite as tight a bunch there on the dirt course, because there's so much room. Sometimes it can be a little dead down toward the inside and guys don't want to be down in there; they'll place their horses a little more toward the middle of the track. But even if you're in the middle or toward the outside you can still hold a horse together off the turns because they're big and sweeping, and you're not losing ground unless you're forced to go super wide.

This year's Triple Crown season has been an interesting one, that's for sure. I think the winners of the Derby and Preakness both performed really well in both races, and you always want to see the horses that run well in the Derby come back and run well next time out, just as a racing fan. Of course I'll be looking to beat them on Saturday, but I'm also hoping they'll perform well again. It's a difficult task for them both to deliver in the short timeframe between Triple Crown races, but the competition they're developing is good for the game.

As for what's going on with me career-wise, it's been hectic with the travel schedule but that's the way it always is. I've won 11 races at Hollywood Park from 59 mounts in between all of the flying in and out, and once the Belmont is over I'll have more of a chance to settle down and get things locked in a little more. We don't really have a solid rhythm going right now in Southern California since we've been shipping a lot, so we've got to search for some good horses here and hopefully find them.

There'll be plenty of those running on Saturday in New York and I'll ride Her Smile for Todd Pletcher in the Acorn Stakes, Justaroundmidnight in the Just a Game Stakes, Viscount Nelson in the Manhattan Stakes, and a couple of other runners on the undercard for Dale Romans and Rudy Rodriguez; plenty of chances at the Grade 1 action leading up to the biggest Grade 1 race of the day. As always, thank you all for following this blog and for your comments -- I really enjoy the interaction and I'm right along with you as one of this sport's biggest fans.