The 144th Belmont Stakes lost a starter Thursday when trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said that Godolphin Racing's Alpha won't run after developing a fever. The colt hadn't been to the track since working out Sunday morning.
"He spiked a temperature  Tuesday evening," McLaughlin said. "He was fine by 11 that evening after treatment, fine yesterday, and he's fine today, but it's too high a temperature too close to the race. It's unfortunate."
A thoroughbred's normal temperature ranges from 99 to 101.
Alpha hasn't run since finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby. His withdrawal reduced the probable field to 11: Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another, Atigun, Dullahan, Five Sixteen, Guyana Star Dweej, Optimizer, Paynter, Ravelo's Boy, Street Life, Union Rags and Unstoppable U.
O'Neill: More notice needed
Doug O'Neill, who trains I'll Have Another, said Thursday he wishes the State Racing and Wagering Board had issued its new regulations about the Belmont earlier than Wednesday. Michael Matz, trainer of Union Rags, had the same complaint Wednesday, when he told Newsday, "It's not like they didn't know the Belmont was going to be on June 9.''
O'Neill agreed with Matz. "It sounds like it wasn't real organized, kind of a late decision,'' O'Neill said.
In an email to Newsday, SRWB spokesman Lee Park said he had no comment on the trainers' remarks "other than referencing the level playing field I mentioned the day before.''
O'Neill understands the reasons for a stricter drug policy and placing every Belmont Stakes runner in one closely monitored barn by noon next Wednesday. "They're thinking about what the general public thinks,'' he said. "It's a bit cumbersome , but it all comes under the heading of transparency. Racing has had a lot of black eyes all over the country.''