- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Nineteen years ago, David Carroll served as a temporary assistant to his brother, Raymond, who helped train Go And Go for the Belmont Stakes. As the fourth choice, the colt upset Unbridled.

Carroll was in the winner’s circle picture.

A year later, Easy Goer, whose longtime exercise rider was Carroll, ended Sunday Silence’s bid for the Triple Crown with a rousing eight-length victory.

Carroll was in the winner’s circle picture.

If Carroll poses for the photographer late Saturday afternoon, it will be the most unlikely of his three trips.

The Carroll-trained Denis of Cork - returning to the track after a third-place finish at the Kentucky Derby last month - likely will be made the third betting choice during today’s Belmont Stakes post-position draw.

But because the field isn’t strong and probable second choice Casino Drive worked slow last week, Denis of Cork represents the best choice to keep Big Brown from winning the first Triple Crown in 30 years.

Although he passed 16 horses over the final half of the Derby, Denis of Cork still finished 8 1/4 lengths behind Big Brown.

A day after the Derby, Carroll declared his intention to skip the Preakness and train up to the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. That has proved wise considering Denis of Cork needed some time off after the Derby.

“The last two weeks, he’s really trained exceptionally well,” Carroll said. “He was tired for a good two weeks after the Derby. The last [three] weeks, he’s turned the corner, and he’s now back training the way he was prior to the Derby.”

Before the Derby, Denis of Cork went to post at odds of 27-1. His previous start was a distant fifth in the seven-horse Illinois Derby. Carroll blamed himself for that performance.

After winning the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18, Carroll’s clients changed their mind on where to run Denis of Cork, creating a long layoff before the April 5 Illinois Derby.

“He was a very flat horse, and he wasn’t prepared for that race,” Carroll said. “That wasn’t the Denis of Cork we know. As a result, that’s a reflection on us and not on him.”

The colt rebounded with a solid effort in the Derby.

“I’m very happy to go into the race the way we are,” Carroll said. “[Denis of Cork] doesn’t have to apologize to anybody for his performances. He has one blemish on his record.”

Denis of Cork will have a new jockey Saturday - Robby Albarado (nine career Grade I wins at Belmont) replaces Calvin Borel.

Casino Drive also will have a new rider with Edgar Prado taking over for Kent Desormeaux, who will be aboard Big Brown.

Casino Drive was an intriguing player after his win in the Peter Pan Stakes, but clockers at Belmont have raised issues with the quality of his workouts (five furlongs in an unofficial 1:12 2/5). Drive’s camp isn’t concerned, though.

“He does know what to do,” said Nobutaka Tada, spokesman for Casino Drive’s ownership. “The good thing about Casino Drive is he has learned how to control his natural speed.”

The half sibling of the last two Belmont winners (Jazil and Rags to Riches) will make only his fourth career start and second in the United States since arriving from Japan in February.

Following Rags to Riches’ win last year, Tada said the goal was clear for Casino Drive - start his career in Japan and then invade New York.

Big Brown trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. has dismissed any notion of Casino Drive beating his colt. In turn, Tada dismissed Dutrow.

“Well, that’s his idea,” Tada said. “I have no comment about what he thinks. My job is just keeping my horse happy and to train him up nicely every day. … It sounds like he knows my horse more than us.”

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