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Did Restoring Hope help stablemate Justify win Belmont Stakes?

Restoring Hope trains at Belmont Park on Thursday.

Restoring Hope trains at Belmont Park on Thursday. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Was Florent Geroux riding shotgun on long shot Restoring Hope to help stablemate Justify win Saturday’s Belmont Stakes? Long Islander Mike Repole, co-owner of also-rans Vino Rosso and Noble Indy, thinks so.

“It definitely seemed to me that he was more of an offensive lineman than a racehorse trying to win the Belmont, and Justify was a running back trying to score a touchdown,” Repole told The New York Post.

In an interview with Newsday, Repole said: “I watched the replay a bunch of times, the head-on, the aerial view, and I believe in what I said. They’ve been running rabbits in races for years, and Noble Indy was not a rabbit. If he had a 5-percent chance to win, he had to be up near the lead.”

Bob Baffert trains Triple Crown winner Justify and Restoring Hope. Geroux’s mount broke slowly and was rushed up on the outside toward the lead. He stayed in second, 1½ to 2 lengths behind Justify, for a mile before retreating to eighth. Geroux can be seen looking around on the backstretch to check on the pursuers.

NBC analyst Randy Moss saw nothing wrong with the tactic. “Restoring Hope is sort of running interference a little bit to keep Noble Indy from getting up there with Justify,” Moss said on the telecast. “But that’s fine, it’s perfectly legal.”

Steve Lewandowski, the New York Gaming Commission steward, said there was no plan to question Geroux, the Daily Racing Form reported. Repole thinks there should be an inquiry.

“I think they at least have to call in Geroux,” he told Newsday. “I would expect that probably in the next few days the New York stewards should at least ask him what he was thinking and what happened.

“Justify is an undefeated Triple Crown winner, which is an amazing accomplishment. I just question Geroux’s ride.”

Noble Indy, a 23-1 shot ridden by Javier Castellano, never got closer than fourth. He finished last of 10 after “brushing the right side of the starting gate,” the Equibase chart said.

Fred Hart of Jericho owned the late Noble Maz, the mother of Noble Indy. Hart agrees with Repole.

In an email to Newsday, Hart wrote: “The best horse won . . . but Noble Indy got a raw deal in how the race was run. He wouldn’t have gotten the (1½-mile) distance, but he wasn’t given the opportunity, either. Geroux should have come out with shoulder pads on if he was going to act like a pulling guard.”

New York Sports