Inexperienced Mindframe Brings Talent to Belmont Stakes (2024)

Leave it to Mike Repole to do something out of the ordinary as the 2024 Triple Crown season comes to a historic end.

Repole owns last year's 2-year-old champion male Fierceness. He also bred the son of City of Light trained by Todd Pletcher. At the moment, he's the star 3-year-old in Repole's barn, though by sunset June 8, with the help of something unseen for decades in the Triple Crown, there could be a changing of the guard.

With Fierceness slow to recover from a 15th-placefinish as the 3-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Mindframe has been handed the baton to represent Repole and Co. in Saturday's extravaganza of the $2 million Belmont Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course.

"We have the 2-year-old champ in Fierceness and then there's a horse like Mindframe and by Saturday he might be the best horse in the crop," Repole said about a lightly raced 3-year-old he co-owns with St. Elias Stables. "He's 2-for-2 and the way he won both was incredible."

In a Triple Crown season that Repole believed would be a showcase for Fierceness, his hopes of securing a Triple Crown win now rests with the oh-so-talented and oh-so-inexperienced Mindframe, who will attempt a feat that can be called both incredible and ludicrous: Win an American classic in his stakes debut and third start overall.

Considering that a maiden has not won a Triple Crown race since 1933 when Brokers Tip of Fightin' Finish fame took the Kentucky Derby—a period of time older than Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Seize the Day's 88-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas—and that Mindframe's accomplishments are just a step above that, the notion that he can win the mile-and-a-quarter final jewel in the Triple Crown in his first stakes race seems more humorous than some of Repole's social media digs at his critics.

Yet, check the morning line for Saturday's classic, and you'll see Mindframe is the 7-2 second choice in a field of 10. His morning-line odds are actually lower than the price on 5-1 shot Mystik Dan, who has "only" won the Kentucky Derby and finished second in the Preakness.

Clearly, this is not your run-of-the-mill allowance horse chasing a pipe dream or steered to the starting gate by an owner seeking a dining room table on a big race day. But to win a Triple Crown race in his third start? Without a stakes race on his résumé?

"We have a lot of confidence in his abilities but we also have concerns about his lack of experience. He's giving up a lot of experience and seasoning to some really good horses," Pletcher said. "If he continues to run the way he has or maybe takes a step forward, he has shown me that he has as much talent as anyone in the field. But again, this is asking a lot for his third start. He's going from seven furlongs, to a mile and a sixteenth, to a mile and a quarter. But we wouldn't be trying this if we didn't think he was capable."

The Maryland-bred son of Constitution started his career March 30 by winning a maiden race at Gulfstream Park. He was a close fourth after the opening quarter-mile then rocketed to a 13 3/4-length victory in the blistering time of 1:21.72 for seven furlongs. His speed figure was huge on all of the major services, checking in a little slower than the numbers Fierceness registered in his Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and Florida Derby (G1) romps and generally topping any number posted by a Belmont starter.

Thenon Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, Mindframe tackled two turns in a May 4 mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance optional claimer. This time, after setting moderate fractions on the front end of :49.18 and 1:13.17, he led throughout and romped by 7 1/2 lengths.

Two wins by a combined 21 1/4 lengths. Thus, 7-2 odds in the Belmont Stakes ... even without a stakes race on the résumé.

Two weeks ago, the plan was to run Fierceness in the Belmont along with Protective, a Repole Stable maiden who has placed in grade 2 and grade 3 stakes.

Mindframe was a candidate for the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park as a prep for the July 20 Haskell Stakes (G1) at the New Jersey track. But those plans were scrapped and targets swapped when Mindframe showed more verve in workouts with Fierceness.

"Mindframe worked with Fierceness and no one ever outworked Fierceness, but he did and it told us two things," Repole said. "One, maybe Fierceness needs more time and two, how can you not take a chance with a horse who will be the second choice in the Belmont Stakes? If Mindframe wins by five or is fifth by five, we won't regret our decision because he's in the right place. He fits and I don't think anyone in there can match his speed figures."

Inexperienced Mindframe Brings Talent to Belmont Stakes (1)

Mindframe drew the outside post in the expected field of 10, which pleased the connections as it will allow jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to assess what is happening inside of him and place Mindframe in an advantageous position in the early furlongs.

"We love his post," Repole said. "Having him outside will take away a lot of the inexperience that might show up if he had to race between horses."

While Mindframe will try to join the elite in the 3-year-old division, Fierceness will be in his stall, awaiting the Haskell, when he will get another chance to prove he is not racing's biggest enigma.

"How could he not be an enigma?" Repole said of a colt who seems to have developed a habit of running one great race followed by a disappointing one. "If we have him figured out, I think we'll know after his next start. He's a medium-sized horse who doesn't have the best appetite and runs super-fast numbers. We'll give him time (11 weeks between races) and he'll be fine."

Pletcher, a Hall of Famer who owns the record for career earnings, has seen it all in the sport, sending out more than 25,000 starters with six Triple Crown wins, four of them in the Belmont Stakes. Even to him, Fierceness has been a mystery.

"He's been frustrating, no question about it. He's been brilliant at times and not so brilliant at others," Pletcher said. "We're thankful for the times he has been great and we're just trying to get him to be more consistent."

Inexperienced Mindframe Brings Talent to Belmont Stakes (2)

Fierceness came into the Kentucky Derby off a monstrous 13 1/2-length victory in the Florida Derby (G1), which came on the heels of a shocking third in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and a 6 1/4-length triumph in the Juvenile before then. But the Derby was the bad race on the good/bad wheel of fortune. He was third in the early going, then dropped back sharply after a mile and came home an exhausted 3-year-old.

"If he had won the Kentucky Derby, there was 0% chance he could run in the Preakness. Todd couldn't even work him after the race," Repole said. "It was an easy decision to give him all those weeks off and run in the Haskell as opposed to runningon five weeks rest at a mile-and-a-quarter. We willgive him the time off and he'll be fine, though he won't run in the Traversafter that."

And so, on the historic day when Saratoga plays host to a Triple Crown race, Repole, who is trying to revamp attitudes and business practices in the sport through his National Thoroughbred Alliance, will try to rewrite Triple Crown history with an amazingly talented but extremely inexperienced allowance winner.

Yes, leave it to Mike Repole to shake up the Triple Crown.

Inexperienced Mindframe Brings Talent to Belmont Stakes (3)

Inexperienced Mindframe Brings Talent to Belmont Stakes (2024)
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