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Master Fencer Works at Keeneland for G1 Belmont Stakes

by New York Racing Association Press Release

May 22, 2019

ELMONT, N.Y. - Letting Master Fencer go about his business at his pace has been a key intangible in getting the best end result out of the chestnut colt. 

So, on a picture perfect Wednesday morning at Keeneland, the connections behind the son of Just a Way gave him ample time to settle into his routine before posting a half-furlong workout in :52 seconds flat in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, slated for Saturday, June 8.

After emerging from his barn shortly after 6:30 a.m., Master Fencer first headed to the Keeneland training track where he jogged and cantered a couple of laps before making his way to the main track. With exercise rider Yosuke Kono in the irons, the sixth-place finisher in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby put in another easy canter once around before finally breaking off for his move.

"He's a pretty slow starter so we meant him to warm up and get ready to go to the main track," Kono said via translator. "Even at the main track, we actually wanted to see how he can move his body to take action. So the first gallop, we did a stop and go because I wanted to see how he can respond to the break. So he did that twice and he responded well. For the breezing, he did the Japanese way where we start slowly and then maybe the last two furlongs have a strong finish."

Master Fencer has been at Keeneland since rallying from last in the 19-horse field Kentucky Derby to cross the wire seventh before being elevated one spot via the disqualification of Maximum Security. That admirable surge far outdistanced his 58-1 odds and cemented his extended stay in North America for the purpose of chasing the final leg of the Triple Crown.

"To be honest, the plan [to go to the Belmont Stakes] was there but it was all up to the result of the Kentucky Derby," Kono said. "Fortunately he ran well, he finished seventh and eventually became sixth. Because of that result, immediately after the race the owner decided to go to the Belmont.

"Where he was in the first turn and coming into the stretch we were kind of thinking 'Oh my God'. But eventually he used such an amazing late kick. We are really hopeful for the next race."

Owned and bred by Katsumi Yoshizawa and trained by 48-year-old former jockey Koichi Tsunoda, Master Fencer earned his spot in the starting gate for the first Saturday in May by accumulating 19 points on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. His 2019 campaign included a fast-closing second in the $310,830 Fukuryu at Nakayama Racecourse on March 31 and a fourth-place effort in the $330,506 Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse on Feb. 17.

Master Fencer is slated to ship to Belmont Park on Friday, May 24 where he will have his final bit of fine tuning in advance of the 12-furlong classic.

"He's been doing better all the time," Kono said. "He eats well and he works well so we're satisfied for now."