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the Contenders Prep…

Last Minute Gallops For Belmont Stakes

Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another’s move to the Belmont Stakes barn took place place Wednesday after the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner had another energetic gallop at Belmont Park on Tuesday morning, June 5.

Trainer Doug O’Neill had hoped to have I’ll Have Another transferred from Mark Hennig’s barn, where he had been since May 20, into the stakes barn well in advance of Wednesday’s noon deadline for all the contenders in Saturday’s 144th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes.

The trainer added that I’ll Have Another’s stable pony, Lava Man, would not join him in the stakes barn as had been planned.

“He’s not going to go,” said O’Neill of Lava Man on Tuesday. “I went over there yesterday and I just think it will be nerve-wracking for him. So we’ll leave him here. He’ll still chaperone [I’ll Have Another] every morning. I’ll Have Another is such a relaxed, cool horse, I worry that Lava Man will get a little anxious and that I’ll Have Another will worry what his big brother is all anxious about. We’ll leave Lava here, he’s settled in nicely here, and we’ll just move I’ll Have Another.”

O’Neill said the late change in schedule was not a concern.

“Everything is good,” he said. “The horse is doing great, so we’re all doing good, ready to go. I thought he galloped great this morning, looked good, good stride, good energy. Three more days of galloping and if we get lucky, ooo-fah!”

The trainer said that I’ll Have Another would stay in the barn and walk the shedrow the morning of the Belmont Stakes, in which he is bidding to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.

“He actually galloped the morn- ing of the Bob Lewis and the morning of the Santa Anita Derby, but he didn’t in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, so we’ll maintain,” he said.

Donegal Racing’s Dullahan maintained his busy training busy schedule, galloping 1 1/2-miles under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar on Tuesday. The chestnut colt returned to the track Monday for a jog following a four-furlong breeze in 45.97 on Sunday.

Trainer Dale Romans said Dullahan thrives on activity, similar to his 2011 Preakness winner, Shackleford, who on May 28 won the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap.

“They’re different physical specimens, other than being chestnut with a white blaze,” said Romans. “But they both like to train, hold their weight, and maintain well with a lot of training. They seem to be happy when they’re going.”

Shackleford was fifth in the 2011 Belmont for Romans, who finished third in 2005 with Nolan’s Cat and in 2010 with First Dude.

Trainer Ken McPeek spoke highly of the 1 1/2-mile Tuesday gallops of Atigun and Unstoppable U as they train for their attempt to emulate Sarava, McPeek’s protégé who ended War Emblem’s Triple Crown bid with a 70-1 upset in the 2002 Belmont Stakes. McPeek called the gallops “Sarava gallops,” having used the same routine with Sarava prior to his Belmont upset.

“We do that with all of our young horses,” said McPeek. “We start that routine early in their career where they need to understand at what point to start their work and at what point to finish it. I think repetition is a good idea.”

Paynter had a leisurely jog on Tuesday and resumed galloping on Wednesday, according to Jim Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

“Everything is good,” said Barnes.

Paynter hails from the same barn as Bodemeister, who was second in the Derby and Preakness for Zayat Stables, and will attempt to continue to carry the momentum established by stablemate Game On Dude, who was a devastating 7 1/4-length winner of Saturday’s Grade 2 Californian at Betfair Hollywood Park.

“That was a good race and a good win,” Barnes said of Game On Dude’s performance.

Union Rags, who holds a Grade 1 victory at Belmont Park with his 5 1/4-length score in the 2011 Champagne Stakes, departed Fair Hill Training Center for the 160-mile trip to New York Wednesday morning.

Union Rags, seventh in the Kentucky Derby, will get the services of John Velazquez in the 1 ½-mile Belmont. Velazquez, who Sunday went to Fair Hill to work Union Rags five furlongs in 59.00 seconds, won the 2007 Belmont with the filly Rags to Riches.

No horse was traveling faster through the Belmont Park stretch in the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan on May 12 than Street Life. After trailing in the field of 10 through a halfmile in a scorching 45.35 seconds, Street Life swung to the outside under jockey Jose Lezcano and turned it on to pass most of the field and wind up third, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by winner Mark Valeski.

Now, the son of Street Sense will attempt to go from that strong effort at 1 1/8 miles to the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion,” and trainer Chad Brown expects nothing but the race of his life.

“I’m confident my horse is in tiptop shape, and I’m confident this horse is going to run the fastest number he’s ever run,” said Brown. “I don’t think anybody can go into this race feeling confident that they’re definitely going to win, but I am confident we belong in the race and that he’s sitting on a top effort. Whether his top effort is good enough against these, you don’t know until you actually do it.”

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas and his team with Optimizer arrived at Belmont Park at 4 a.m. Tuesday after a 14-hour, 15-minute van ride from Kentucky.

Optimizer, owned by Bluegrass Hall LLC, finished a combined 27 1/2 lengths behind I’ll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and Lukas knows the Belmont Stakes is a tall order. Yet, in conversation, the Hall of Famer optimizes his optimism about his chances.

Following a 23-hour van ride from Calder Race Course in Florida, Ravelo’s Boy arrived at Belmont Park shortly after 7 a.m. on Tuesday and became the first horse to take up residence in the track’s designated Belmont Stakes barn.

The chestnut son of Lawyer Ron was accompanied on the trip by Roberto Riasco and Enrique Barcenas, assistants to trainer Manny Azpurua. Ravelo’s Boy walked the enclosed shedrow before bedding down in stall 2.

“He had to walk. It’s a long trip,” Barcenas said. “He behaved real nice. There was a lot of rain and a lot of wind on the drive but no problems. Everything was fine.”

Owned by Korina Stable, Ravelo’s Boy has two wins and two thirds in 13 career races but is winless in three tries this year. He won an optional claimer to end his twoyear old season on Dec. 3 at Gulfstream Park, 3 1/2 months after breaking his maiden in his debut at Calder.

Trainer Dominick Schettino is trying to keep a steady demeanor heading into his first Belmont Stakes with MeB Racing Stables’ Five Sixteen. Born in the Bronx in 1966, Schettino said, “Anyone who runs in the Belmont would be excited,” when asked if it was extra special being a native New Yorker with a horse in the state’s biggest race.

Five Sixteen, 1 for 6 lifetime, is a $225,000 son of Invasor, the 2006 Horse of the Year, out of a Salt Lake mare who has produced six winners. Five Sixteen’s pedigree has speed, stamina and wet-track influences, and the gelding broke his maiden going 1 1/8 miles on the inner track at Aqueduct on Mar. 14.

Guyana Star Dweej walked the shedrow at owner-trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal’s barn on Tuesday, the morning after putting in his final work for Saturday’s race.

Guyana Star Dweej, working in company with Grade 3-winning stablemate Shkspeare Shaliyah, was caught going a quarter-mile in 22.76 and a half in 49.03 under Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux.

“I saw [where it was said] he failed to impress, but we just put Shaliyah in there to tease this horse,” said Shivmangal. “When Kent came back from the work, he said as the horse goes longer, he wants to go more. I did not want him to do 22 yesterday. I wanted him to do 23 or 24, and finish up the last quarter faster than he did. But he was hyper because of his company with Shaliyah. They work pretty good together.”

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