- Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another visits paddock before galloping
- NYRA offering trio of Belmont Stakes-related giveaways
- Dullahan blazes four furlongs in 45.97
- Union Rags turns in five-furlong move at Fair Hill
- Street Life gives Brown exactly what he wanted, going 5f in 1:01.15
- Atigun pleases McPeek in final breeze, Unstoppable U now “50-50” for Belmont
- Paynter breezes seven furlongs in company
- Ravelo’s Boy traverses six furlongs at Calder, to arrive at Belmont on Tuesday
Triple Crown contender I’ll Have Another visited the paddock at Belmont Park Sunday morning, standing briefly in the saddling enclosure and walking several times around the paddock before heading to the track for his customary energetic morning gallop.
“The way he went today, that will be the last time he’ll see the paddock [before the race],” said trainer Doug O’Neill. “He’s good to go.”
After passing through the grandstand tunnel from the paddock to the main track, the handsome chestnut colt was warmly greeted by the “Breakfast at Belmont” fans who lined up along the rail to watch him gallop past with exercise rider Jonny Gonzalez. On June 9, the chestnut colt will attempt to add the 1 ½-mile Belmont to his Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories and become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner.
“It’s so cool to see the people in the paddock and in the grandstand,” said O’Neill, who trains I’ll Have Another for J. Paul Reddam. “You can start feeling the excitement that the Belmont’s coming. It’s a huge credit to the Belmont people to set aside the special time, kind of closing off these 15 minutes and letting people come out and get a chance to see some of the runners. It’s been fun.”
O’Neill, who watched I’ll Have Another’s gallop from the box seats in the grandstand, was also able to see several other Belmont contenders put in their final breezes for the “Test of the Champion.”
“I didn’t get a chance to really dissect the horses that worked, but when the horses came by me, I thought that Dullahan looked great, stretching out,” said O’Neill, adding he thought Paynter and trainer Ken McPeek’s duo of Atigun and Unstoppable U looked good as well.
Informed that Dullahan’s trainer, Dale Romans, thought he had the horse to beat in the race, O’Neill said: “I respect [Dale] a ton, so if he says that, it’s scary. As confident as he is in his horse, I’m equally confident in my horse. I think we’re in really good shape.”
Coming through the stretch, I’ll Have Another picked up the pace considerably and galloped out with good energy, which O’Neill was delighted to see.
“He’s just a special horse,” he said. “Good horses do things that are special very easily. It’s so humbling to be around a horse like him. He’s such a brilliant horse. We wouldn’t be here without I’ll Have Another’s brilliance.”
The trainer said he would like to have I’ll Have Another moved into the Belmont Stakes barn Monday morning after training, and added that he was hoping the tightened security would help focus attention on the horse.
“I am kind of looking forward to running him in a situation when you’re in a fishbowl and everyone who has thought negative thoughts about me can realize it’s not about me, it’s about the horse,” he said. “And they can watch him lead up to a historical event and, hopefully, watch him kick butt, in a fishbowl.”
In commemoration of I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown bid, The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) is offering a trio of promotions.
Patrons at Belmont Park on Friday, June 8 will receive a free beverage koozie displaying the silks of Reddam Racing, the owner of I’ll Have Another, as they enter the racetrack. Koozies will be distributed as supplies last.
Also, nine sets of programs from all three legs of the 2012 Triple Crown will be given away to those who “like” NYRA on Facebook. Entries for the free contest will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 10, with the winners to be contacted via email. Those who get 10 friends to sign up will be eligible for a secret prize.
In a separate Facebook drawing, NYRA is giving away five I’ll Have Another caps, 10 I’ll Have Another T-shirts, and 20 I’ll Have Another buttons. Entries close at 11:58 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5 and are restricted to those who “like” NYRA on Facebook. To sign up for the program contest, click here. To enter the merchandise contest, click here.
Trainer Dale Romans issued an upbeat bulletin after Dullahan earned a bullet for his 45.97 four-furlong breeze on Sunday at Belmont, galloping out five furlongs in 58.91. The move was quickest of 66 at the distance.
“I thought it was super,” said Romans, who trains Dullahan for Donegal Racing.
Romans compared Dullahan’s breeze to the :57 2/5 five-furlong drill he posted at Keeneland on April 8, eight days prior to his victory in the Grade 1 Blue Grass.
“When he works like that, he runs big,” said Romans. “He looked like he was galloping, and then we got back to the barn he recovered quickly. He wasn’t blowing. I think he’s ready.”
Sunday marked the first time Javier Castellano, who will ride Dullahan in the Belmont, was aboard the half-brother to Mine That Bird.
“[Castellano] loved it,” Romans reported. “He said if you hadn’t told him the time, he would have said :48 or :49.”
In the Belmont Stakes, Dullahan will attempt to avenge his third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, in which he made a seven-wide run to finish a diminishing 1 ½ lengths behind I’ll Have Another. Dullahan skipped the Preakness to train up to the Belmont.
“I’m happy with my position,” said Romans. “I wouldn’t change places with anybody in this race.”
Romans said Dullahan will either walk or jog on Monday, then gallop into the race.
Working in Maryland over the Fair Hill Training Center’s dirt track, Chadds Ford Stable’s Union Rags completed his major preparations for the Belmont Stakes by covering five furlongs in 59 seconds flat.
It was the first time John Velazquez, who made the trek south to Fair Hill for the breeze, had ridden Union Rags.
“I’m glad Johnny [Velazquez] made the effort to come down and sit on him,” said trainer Michael Matz. “Johnny seemed to like him and he seemed to do that easy enough.”
“Excellent, man,” added Velazquez after returning to Belmont Park. “Very easy. It was a little faster than we had planned, but it was very easy. Very impressive. Hopefully, we can keep him like that for Saturday!”
The last time Union Rags was in New York he won the Grade 1 Champagne by 5 ¼ lengths. In the interim, he was second by a nose in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, first in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, and seventh in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.
In his final workout before the Belmont, Street Life gave trainer Chad Brown exactly what he wanted,breezing five furlongs in 1:01.15 in company with stablemate Zivo.
According to NYRA clockers, Street Life galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.55.
“I was looking for five-eighths in 1:01 and that’s exactly what he did. He galloped out good and came back with plenty of energy,” said Brown, who described Zivo as a “pretty promising” horse. “We just wanted to maintain where he’s at. I really wasn’t looking to do anything more than that, so mission accomplished.”
According to Brown, Street Life has always been a “little lazy,” but Brown added that the horse has matured and become sharper as a 3-year-old, particularly after the addition of blinkers. “I could maybe work him by himself now, but just to be safe, I worked him in company.”
As a former assistant to trainer Bobby Frankel, who spoiled Funny Cide’s bid for the Triple Crown when he won the Belmont in 2003 with Empire Maker, Brown thinks that Frankel’s advice would be to stick to the program for the horse and not make too many changes for this one race.
And like his mentor, he doesn’t shrink from the idea of spoiling a Triple Crown. “As a racing fan, I’d like to see a Triple Crown winner, but when I’m in the race, I certainly don’t want to see it this year.”
Trainer Ken McPeek had mixed reactions after Atigun and Unstoppable U put in separate breezes for the Belmont Sunday morning.
As pleased as he was with Atigun’s four-furlong work in 48.55 under jockey Julien Leparoux, McPeek was disappointed with Unstoppable U’s reluctance to switch leads as he went five furlongs in 1:02.05.
“Julien felt like [Atigun] was really strong under him,” said McPeek. “I was real happy with the work. Nice and solid. He’s at a really great stage right now.”
As for Unstoppable U, McPeek said the lightly raced colt was now only “50-50” to enter the Belmont.
“I wasn’t thrilled with it,” said McPeek of the work. “I’m going to watch him the next few days; we don’t have to make a decision until Wednesday. He hung on the left [lead] again to the eighth pole. For him to win the Belmont, he can’t do those kinds of things. It’s just a bad habit, and it’s really only popped up recently. We’ll see. We’ll give it a few more days and then make a decision. It’s probably going to be what I call an audible at the line of scrimmage.”
Working in company with stablemate Brigand and behind Chad Brown’s pair of Street Life and Zivo, Zayat Stables’ Paynter breezed seven furlongs in 1:25.00, according to NYRA clockers.
Ridden by Rajiv Maragh, Paynter started two lengths behind Brigand, began to close in on his stablemate while traveling down the middle of the home stretch, overtook his partner inside the sixteenth pole, and was ridden out a furlong past the finish line.
“Bob likes that kind of work, and I saw what I needed to see,” said Jim Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. “He’ll sit and wait, and when you ask him he responds. When [Rajiv Maragh] asked him to go, he accelerated by his company and up to Chad Brown’s horses.”
Barnes said he didn’t expect Paynter to catch up to Street Life and Zivo, but that Paynter’s proximity to Brown’s pair of five-furlong breezers didn’t affect anybody’s workout.
“I thought they were quite a ways in front of us,” said Barnes. “I’d have to see the works again to see where [Brown’s horses] actually were when they went off, but I know we left at six and I thought they left at five.”
Paynter, fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby won by I’ll Have Another and second in the Grade 3 Derby Trial, enters the Belmont off a dominant allowance victory on the Preakness undercard. He’ll likely walk on Monday, jog on Tuesday, and gallop up to the Belmont, according to Barnes.
Ravelo’s Boy worked six furlongs in 1:11 4/5, handily, on Sunday at Calder Race Course for trainer Manuel Azpurua and owner Korina Stables.
“It was very, very good,” said Azpurua. “He’s 100 percent sound and he’s behaving himself. Every single week he’s been doing better and better. That’s why we are taking a chance and running in the Belmont Stakes.”
Ravelo’s Boy, who comes into the Belmont Stakes off a fifth in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, will depart for Belmont tomorrow and will arrive early Tuesday morning, said Azpurua. Alex Solis has the mount.