- Triple Crown contender I’ll Have Another gallops, to move into stakes barn Tuesday; O’Neill has final formal media briefing
- Guyana Star Dweej set for Belmont after breezing 4f in 49.06
- Sunday Belmont Stakes breezers reported to be doing well
- Champion Hansen to miss G2 Woody Stephens presented by VisitNassauCounty.com
I’ll Have Another, who on Saturday will bid to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes, had his usual 1 ½-mile tour of Belmont Park’s oval this morning, walking and jogging alongside stable pony Lava Man before galloping through the lane.
“[Exercise rider] Jonny Garcia, who gets on him, thought he felt great, so we were very happy with his training today,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, who added that I’ll Have Another will move into the Belmont Stakes barn on Tuesday after training. All the starters in the 144th Belmont are required to be in the stakes barn by noon on Wednesday.
“I know the other guys will probably hate me for this, but I like the thought of showing the general public all the horses are in the same locker room, they’re all being looked after real thoroughly,” he said. “Just the transparency that our game probably lacks is key. You get a lot of commentary from people who don’t know the horses, who don’t know the horsemen, and don’t know how they’re cared for. This way you have everyone in an isolated vicinity and everyone who wants to come and kind of watch what’s going on there and make a judgment from what’s really happening and not guessing what’s going on in that guy’s locker room or that guy’s locker room. I think it’s a good thing.
“The obvious negative thing is a lot of horses do get distracted when they change stalls. It sounds silly, but it happens. Hopefully I’ll Have Another won’t get distracted, that none of the other horses get distracted, they all settle in good, they all present themselves well, and it’s a nice, clean-run race, and at the end of the day people can say, ‘Wow, they were all looked after and they all ran great.’”
The trainer said he thought having a Triple Crown winner would be good for horse racing.
“If he were to get lucky and win on June 9 I think it would be great,” said O’Neill. “Anything we can do to show what a great game it is, how beautiful these horses are, and how well they’re cared for is, I’m hoping, a positive step.
“One of the problems our industry has, we have a hard time falling in love with horses, because oftentimes, once they get really good, the temptation of the financial end of it is so strong that most of us have to take the money and retire them,” he added. “Knowing [owner] Paul [Reddam], if the horse is right, he’d much rather see the horse compete, and I think that would be great for the game as I’ll Have Another is gaining more and more fans. It would be nice to see him around for another year or two if the racing gods are looking over him.”
I’ll Have Another’s jockey, Mario Gutierrez, is scheduled to arrive later today and O’Neill said he and the 25-year-old rider will be reviewing tapes of previous Belmonts over the next few days. Gutierrez is scheduled to have a personal tour of Belmont Park with former New York riding champion Richard Migliore on Thursday, and on Friday will ride the O’Neill-trained Boxeur des Rues in the 1 ½-mile Brooklyn Handicap.
After watching Guyana Star Dweej put in a half-mile work on Belmont Park’s main track Monday morning, owner-trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal confirmed the Eddington colt will make his next start in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.
“Guyana Star is in the Belmont,” Shivmangal said. “I was very pleased with him yesterday morning, but I am more pleased today. We were able to beat the weather, and he did what he needed to do. I think Guyana Star is back on the straight path again.”
Working in company with Grade 3 Pilgrim winner Shkspeare Shaliyah, Guyana Star Dweej went a quarter-mile in 22.76 and a half in 49.06, galloping out five furlongs in 1:02.39, according to NYRA clockers. Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux was aboard for the work and will ride in the Belmont.
“Kent said he was very relaxed and went very easy,” Shivmangal said. “Of all the horses in the barn, he’ll be the first one to clean his feed tub. He’s a nice horse. Nothing bothers him.”
Desormeaux has ridden in the Belmont seven times, but not since winning with Summer Bird in 2009. He has finished second twice, with Real Quiet in 1998 and Medaglia d’Oro in 2002.
Guyana Star Dweej was second to fellow Belmont contender Unstoppable U in a one-mile optional claimer at Belmont Park on April 27 in his most recent start, with jockey Eddie Castro aboard. Apprentice Samuel Camacho Jr. was up for the previous three races, including his lone victory on April 7 at Aqueduct.
“Kent came by with his agent and they were asking about the horse,” Shivmangal said. “We were debating who would ride him. My kids were thinking I should bring Camacho back to ride. I told them I have nothing against him. He won on the horse, but this is a big race, the toughest of the Triple Crown races to win.
“I love to use the bug kids, because I know they try every time. I met with my wife and kids and we decided to go with Kent. We felt it was the right decision to have an experienced jockey who knows what it takes. We believe in loyalty, but this is a big race and not a small race. You have to have somebody who knows how to do it.”
Shivmangal had been pointing to the May 19 Preakness for Guyana Star Dweej, who was pulled from consideration with a left front leg injury three days before the race.
In addition to Monday’s work, Shivmangal was encouraged to run in the Belmont by the way the horse galloped Sunday morning, also with Desormeaux up.
“After his gallop yesterday, I was very pleased,” he said. “He is not a work horse in the morning, but he can run. I know for a fact that he runs better than he works. In a Triple Crown race, anything can happen. The first three or four horses are the high contenders, and after that the rest of them are mediocre horses.”
The connections of the horses who turned in their final pre-race breezes on Sunday reported their Belmont Stakes contenders came out of their workouts in good shape.
One morning after earning a bullet for his 45.97 second four-furlong breeze, Dullahan was already back on the track Monday “to stretch his legs.”
“He mostly walked, jogged a little bit,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He was bouncing around, jumping around his stall, so I thought it’d be good for him to get out and do something.”
The other Sunday breezers based at Belmont – Street Life, Paynter, Atigun, and Unstoppable U – all walked.
Trainer Chad Brown said Street Life will now gallop into the race and will travel to the track through the paddock. In addition, Street Life could school in the paddock Thursday afternoon.
Paynter will jog tomorrow and resume galloping on Wednesday, according to assistant trainer Jim Barnes, who added that Hall of Famer Bob Baffert was scheduled to arrive in New York Wednesday night.
Lars Becdelamotte, assistant to trainer Ken McPeek, said the tandem of Atigun and Unstoppable U will have an “easy gallop” on Tuesday and proceed to gallop every day after that. No final decision on Unstoppable U, who is now listed only as possible for the Belmont, has been made.
Speaking via telephone from Fair Hill in Maryland, trainer Michael Matz, said Union Rags came out of his Sunday work in good shape. With new rider John Velazquez aboard, the three-time graded stakes winner zipped five furlongs in 59 seconds, the best of six works on the dirt track at Fair Hill.
“He came out good, thank you,” Matz said Monday morning. “I think he worked pretty well yesterday. [Velazquez] liked him and we asked him [for a strong work], so hopefully we can come up [for the Belmont] and work out a trip.”
A depleted red blood cell count will keep 2011 juvenile champion Hansen from making an anticipated start in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by VisitNassauCounty.com at Belmont Park.
Trainer Mike Maker informed NYRA officials of the decision on Monday morning, two days after the Grade 1-winning Tapit colt breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 at the Churchill Downs training facility.
“On him, we routinely do [blood tests], and when we did it this morning, that’s what we discovered,” Maker said. “He’s got a little low red blood cell count, and we didn’t want to risk, with the ship and the race and everything, to knock him down even further. So, we elected to pass the race.”
Owned by Dr. Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing, Hansen has not run since finishing ninth behind I’ll Have Another in the May 5 Kentucky Derby. His connections opted to skip the May 19 Preakness and cut back in distance to point for the Woody Stephens, run at seven furlongs on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
“It would have been a nice race to compete in, being a big day and all, but it’s not the end of the world,” Maker said. “It’s a minor issue, so we’ll get it handled and get him back in the entries before too long. We’ll monitor it closely. It’s been my experience that, a lot of times, it’s no big issue, and with proper treatment he’ll rebound quickly. We’ll just have to wait and see.”