We won’t even begin to express our disappointment and disgust over the scratch of I’ll Have Another. All we will do for now is kill the paragraphs already written and leave the leftovers. This is what is left of the Belmont Stakes.
Dullahan’s last work was the standout, only because it totally fooled us and everyone else. It looked as if he were actually working too slow, pretty much loping along, and then came the shock when he was clocked in :45 4/5 for the half, out five-eighths in :58 4/5. He has since galloped strongly every day and has been sharp and on his toes. One morning, the rider tried to get him to stand by the finish line before breaking off into his gallop, but he wanted no part of that and began to buck and jump around until he was allowed to get going.
Paynter never made a huge impression in his gallops, but they did improve each day, so he looks as if he’s coming around at the right time. We did like his seven-furlong work in 1:25 flat in company, even though he was being pushed along late. He is lightly raced and inexperienced and has been asked to do a lot in a short period of time in order to get here. He looks like a horse who needs to be pushed along in race mode, so he can get enough out of his works and put sufficient bottom under him. He did gallop out strongly a mile in 1:38, so all in all, we felt that was a very useful work and will help him stretch out to a mile and a half.
Union Rags didn’t arrive until Wednesday, so he was out only Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, he didn’t seem as comfortable as you would like and sweated up badly, even for him. But he made a complete turnaround on Friday, even though the temperatures were warmer. His gallop was much stronger and much smoother, and, surprisingly, he barely raised a sweat going by and was still pretty dry coming off the track. That is something you love to see; a horse making significant improvement from the first day to the second day. Although one would love to have seen him on the track more, he did win the Champagne Stakes over it last fall, and we really liked what we saw today.
The one horse who has been most consistent in his gallops is Street Life, who barely makes a sound when he goes by; he is that smooth and efficient. He gallops straight as the proverbial arrow, holds his head perfectly still, with his ears up, and just make a good appearance out there every morning. His final work was solid enough, and he looks as if he has as legitimate shot to make some serious noise, especially second race blinkers on. It is apparent the blinkers have made him more focused and professional, as evidenced by the way he changes leads on cue, something he used to fail to do. He definitely is worth watching.
Of the others, Atigun has made a favorable impression in the way he gallops and his overall appearance. At 30-1, he wouldn’t be a total shock should he get up for a piece of it.
As for the wagering aspect of the race, no one has done anything eye-popping, with the exception of Dullahan’s fake-out work.
Last week, we were sure Union Rags was the horse to beat, and even though we have heard from many people who give him little or no shot (he can’t go the distance, his figures are too slow, he has a breathing problem etc), we’re still not jumping off that bandwagon until we see what he can do with a clean trip. This is the horse we thought was going to be trying for the Triple Crown, and as for his speed figures, how could they have gotten any faster when he’s had two disastrous trips? His pedigree is just fine with us, and he is such a powerful, grand-looking horse, his big strides make him a natural for Belmont Park’s sweeping turns. We think he’s going to be a pretty decent price and we’ll give him one more chance to show just how good a horse he is. And if it does come up sloppy, well, just go back and watch his race in last year’s Saratoga Special in the slop.
Dullahan has to be included in all exotics based on the way he’s training and his huge effort in the Kentucky Derby, when he closed strongly to finish third after getting parked eight to nine wide turning for home.
If there is a win bet that can offer a good payoff it is Street Life, who is on an upward spiral and is sitting on a career-best effort.
But the most obvious wager is simply boxing Dullahan, Union Rags, Paynter, and Street Life in the exactas and trifectas or superfectas and see how the cards fall. If you have the funds and want to throw in a bomb to snatch a piece of it, Atigun or Five Sixteen would be the two logical choices to choose from. My Adonis has always been a favorite dark horse of ours, but he was a very late addition to the race and we haven’t gotten a chance to see him.