Haskin's Belmont Report: Is It Finally Nehro's Time?

When Nehro’s connections decided to skip the Preakness and wait for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the first thought was that the son of Mineshaft–The Administrator, by Afleet was going to be the buzz horse in the Test of the Champion.

Despite having run second in his last three starts–the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), Arkansas Derby (gr. I), and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), there surprisingly hasn’t been much buzz surrounding Nehro, at least to the extent originally expected.

If you can overlook the fact that Nehro has won only one race in his career in six starts, he has as much going for him in regard to being an ideal Belmont Stakes horse as anyone. His female family doesn’t exactly shout mile and a half, but there is certainly enough to suggest he will have little problem with the distance.

What he does having going for him is temperament, versatility, and consistency. Actually, when you think of it, what he has accomplished in his last four starts has been pretty remarkable.

First off, however, his temperament is as close to perfect as you can hope. This horse is extremely laid back, will eat grass all day if you let him, does everything you ask of him, and you can’t school any better in the paddock than he did on Wednesday when he never so much as turned a hair in sweltering temperatures.

It is that temperament, along with his natural ability, that enabled him to turn in the four efforts we alluded to.

In his maiden race going a mile at Oaklawn, he came from far back, and with one devastating move on the far turn, inhaled his opposition before drawing off to win by 4 ½ lengths.

That race was good enough to prompt his connections, especially owner Ahmed Zayat, to try him in the Louisiana Derby, despite the big jump in class.

This time Nehro sat right behind the leaders in third, while caught in traffic, and then rallied along the inside to finished second, beaten only a neck by Pants on Fire.

In the Arkansas Derby, he again came from far back, but this time didn’t get in gear until he was in the stretch. Although Archarcharch made a big move nearing the eighth pole to blow by the leaders, Nehro was getting to him with every stride, again losing by a rapidly diminishing neck.

Finally, in the Kentucky Derby, he had to break from post 18, raced closer up in fifth, while wide every step of the way, and was the first horse to make his move and go after the pace-setting Shackleford, who was setting extremely slow fractions.

Nehro collared Shackleford turning for home, but as we saw in the Preakness, Shackleford is not an easy horse to put away. Nehro kept coming at him, finally wearing him down and taking over the lead inside the eighth pole. But a fresh Animal Kingdom came sweeping by him, and although he began to draw clear, Nehro continued to run on well to finish second.

There are few who would argue that Nehro ran close to a mile and half in the Derby, going five-wide into and around the first turn, five-wide the length of the backstretch, and six-wide turning for home. For him to finish second was an extraordinary effort.

So, in his last four starts, Nehro has rallied from far back with a sweeping outside move on the turn, rallied from close up on the inside, rallied from far back on the outside, and rallied from fairly close up again while racing extremely wide every step of the way.

You have to admire this colt’s versatility and his ability to launch a powerful move from anywhere on the racetrack.

We have no idea where he’ll be in the Belmont Stakes, but does it really matter? You can be sure regardless of where he’s running he’s going to put in his usual big move. And for that he must be respected, and most of all admired.

In other Belmont news, there were some anxious moments this morning concerning Master of Hounds, who arrived at Belmont from Aqueduct at 6:45 and proceeded to cause quite a ruckus, especially whenever a filly walked by his stall. He was quite studdish walking the shed, and it was only until he went to the track for a jog and a mile trot that he settled down.

Despite the blistering heat he did not get hot at all on the track and was calm and relaxed walking back to the barn, and was much better once back in his stall.

At Ballydoyle, the colts and fillies are separated, and coming from two days of solitude in quarantine at Aqueduct, it took the colt a while before he got used to the new surroundings, with horses walking past his stall and grazing in the paddock.

Assistant trainer T.J. Comerford, said they’ll get the colt’s training out of the way early on Friday, sending him out at 6:30.

Animal Kingdom looked great on the track this morning and simply has done nothing wrong since he arrived at Belmont last weekend. Shackleford also is his holding his flesh extremely well, and while some people feel Mucho Macho Man looks on the thin side, he actually seems to be thriving at Belmont and looks like as happy horse. He is a naturally thin horse, especially with his 17-hands-plus frame, but he has shown no indication he will not be in top shape for the Belmont, where his humongous stride should help him.

Another laid-back horse who takes everything in stride and looks to be doing very well is Santiva. This tenacious little horse should be fairly close to the lead, and if he can again show the same tenacity of his sire, Giant’s Causeway, he could be an intriguing longshot for the exotics.

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