ESPN Horse Racing

'Emblem' has 'effortless' final tuneup for Belmont
by Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- War Emblem worked his final tuneup for the Belmont Stakes on Tuesday and his trainer said the black colt was "looking good" for a run at the Triple Crown.

War Emblem
War Emblem worked at Churchill Downs on Tuesday.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner breezed five furlongs in 1:01 at Churchill Downs, running so effortlessly that the few dozen onlookers could barely hear his hoofs hitting the ground as he passed by the grandstand.

"He's a cruise missile, man, a stealth, you can't even hear him coming," trainer Bob Baffert said. "Everything looks like it's a 'go.' "

War Emblem, with exercise rider Dana Barnes aboard, took to the track about 8:30 a.m., with more horses than usual also working. Baffert was surprised at the morning traffic, although it did not effect War Emblem's work.

"It's been a ghost town the last few days, now everybody shows up at once," he said. "Guess they all want to be on TV."

The colt clicked off fractions of 12 1/5, 24 1/5 and 36 2/5, and went a half mile in 48 1/5.

War Emblem, expected to take on 11 challengers in his bid to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed in 1978, will be shipped by plane from Kentucky to New York on Wednesday morning.

Baffert said his 3-year-old colt will gallop in the final days before Saturday's 1 1/2 -mile Belmont, the longest of the Triple Crown races.

Last Wednesday, War Emblem worked five furlong in a speedy 1:00.60, and galloped out strongly, timed at 1:13.40 for six furlongs. On Tuesday, Baffert asked Barnes to "shut him down" after five furlongs.

"Man, it's hot out there, and we just wanted to get a nice easy breeze in him," Baffert said. "But he's one tough son of gun."

Temperatures were in the mid-80s, with high humidity in the morning, but that still didn't stop War Emblem from wanting more. "Every time he works he's tough to pull up," Barnes said. "He just has so much energy and stamina."

Baffert, who twice before came up just short of a Triple Crown with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998, used the words "perfect" and "awesome" to describe the work, and is now ready for the waiting game.

"I'm glad that's over win," he said. "We'll just cool him off the rest of the day, load him on the plane tomorrow and keep our fingers crossed."

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War Emblem trainer Bob Baffert describes what it's like to have the chance to win the Triple Crown.
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