Belmont Stakes: Sole Volante 'The Best He's Ever Been' Off 10-Day Turnaround - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Belmont Stakes: Sole Volante ‘The Best He’s Ever Been’ Off 10-Day Turnaround

Sole Volante wins an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on June 10

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Andie Biancone's Sole Volante will be coming off the shortest turnaround of any of the 10 contenders in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, but his connections said having a prep race before starting the Triple Crown series provided a much-needed boost.

The ultra-consistent Sole Volante stalked the early speed and used his late-closing turn-of-foot to post a three-quarters of a length victory against allowance company at one mile on June 10 at Gulfstream Park. The victory netted the Karakontie gelding a 95 Beyer Speed Figure – exceeding 90 for a fourth consecutive race – and marked his first race in three months since running second to King Guillermo in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 7.

The Patrick Biancone trainee shipped to Belmont, where he alertly schooled in the paddock Wednesday mere hours before he drew post 2 and was listed as the 9-2 morning-line second choice behind 6-5 favorite Tiz the Law.

“He just came out of that allowance race so well and we did an open gallop with him on Monday,” said Andie Biancone, assistant trainer for her father in addition to being Sole Volante's co-owner. “We really waited for him to do the talking. He's behavior is great, and he came out of it so fresh and so happy and so well, we couldn't not go to this race.”

Sole Volante is 4-1-1 in six career starts. He began his career 2-for-2 on turf, including a win in the Pulpit in November at Gulfstream Park to cap his juvenile year. The elder Biancone moved him to dirt to commence his sophomore campaign and never looked back, with Sole Volante running third in the one-mile Mucho Macho Man before registering a 2 ½-length score in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis in February at Tampa Bay Downs, earning a personal-best 96 Beyer.

His come-from-behind running style was on full display in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby, where he was 11th at the half-mile mark before rallying second. With restrictions in place nation-wide to mitigate risk and combat the spread of COVID-19, Sole Volante continued to train in Palm Meadows, Florida awaiting his next start.

Andie Biancone said that next spot finally came last week. That victory at Gulfstream Park will now be used as a springboard to the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes.

“We wanted to run him before the Belmont,” Andie Biancone said. “To go almost 100 days without a race, they're itching for it. They're athletes. Mentally, he wanted to do more. Once he got that race him, it was like he said, 'I'm all right, everything is OK.' They love to run. Mentally and physically, he's just perfect right now. We couldn't be happier.

“I think the rest did him well at the end of the day,” she added. “He's put on a lot of weight and grown. For any young horse, I think some time off can do them well. This situation hasn't been done before, but he came out of it well.”

This year's Belmont Stakes will be held at a one-turn 1 1/8 miles, marking the first time since 1925 the American Classic will not be held at its traditional 1 ½ miles. After posting wins at one mile and 1 1/16 miles, Biancone said the Kentucky-bred's late-closing speed could set up well down the stretch on Big Sandy.

“I think he's a closer. With a lot of speed in the race, hopefully he can sit back comfortably and pick his route from there,” she said. “Also, this is the best he's ever been right now, both fitness-wise and mentally.”

After making all six of his starts in Florida, Patrick Biancone said his charge shipped in well to New York and was getting comfortable in New York.

“So far, so good,” Patrick Biancone said. “He's very talented. He's been very good for us and trains his best all the time. We'll see how good he is Saturday. No question, Tiz the Law is the horse to beat, but he totally [deserves] this opportunity.”

Andie Biancone echoed that sentiment after riding Sole Volante under the sunshine in the Belmont paddock Wednesday.

“He was alert but not nervous,” she said. “I think that's something good to look for.”

Andie Biancone, a fourth-generation horsewoman, is the youngest of Biancone's four children. For her 22nd birthday last April, Patrick Biancone bought an interesting gift, purchasing the 2-year-old Sole Volante for $20,000. She now shares ownership with Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, headed by Dean and Patti Reeves, who campaigned Mucho Macho Man, who ran third in the 2011 Kentucky Derby and was the stable's only previous Belmont Stakes entrant, finishing seventh that year.

“When I first heard that Dean Reeves wanted to buy a part of Sole Volante, I was star-struck,” she said. “I was such a huge fan of Mucho Macho Man growing up. They are great ambassadors of the sport. To be partners with them is great. They are great people and great horsemen. His best interests is always with the horse. I admire that. They are fun to work with.”

If there's one thing New Yorkers appreciate, it's authentic Italian, and Andie Volante said in that spirit, the pronunciation of Sole Volante's name was authenticated by a stellar source: jockey Luca Panici, who was born in Milan and began his racing career in Italy before expanding into North America, where he's won more than 600 races multiple graded stakes, including the Sam F. Davis.

Sole Volante, Italian for “Flying Sun,” is a nod to his sire's name, with Karakontie Mohawk for “Flying Sun.”

As the exclusive broadcast partner of the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, NBC Sports will present live coverage from Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day beginning at 2:45 p.m. Eastern.

Belmont Stakes Day June 20 will feature six graded races including four Grade 1 events led by the historic Belmont Stakes, which will offer 150-60-30-15 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

Rounding out the Grade 1 entertainment on Belmont Stakes Day are the $300,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies going one mile; the $250,000 Woody Stephens presented by Claiborne Farm, a seven-furlong sprint over Big Sandy for 3-year-olds; and the $250,000 Jaipur, presented by America's Best Racing, for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs on turf, which offers a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. A pair of one-mile turf races for sophomores, previously contested at nine furlongs, completes a stakes-laden card with the Grade 2, $150,000 Pennine Ridge and the Grade 3, $150,000 Wonder Again for fillies.

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