Along with several other contenders for the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion,” I’ll Have Another went to the track at 8:30 a.m. during a special 15-minute slot reserved for Belmont Stakes hopefuls. Coming on shortly thereafter Paynter, Atigun, Unstoppable U, Five Sixteen and Guyana Star Dweeb, followed by Dullahan and Street Life.
O’Neill said he was delighted to have a portion of the morning set aside for Belmont candidates, a decision which was promoted when a loose horse came close to colliding with I’ll Have Another on Thursday morning.
“Awesome,” he said. “That was so cool. We got a chance to see a couple of the other Belmont hopefuls as well. They looked great out there. It was a great experience and I really appreciate Mr. [P.J.] Campo and the rest of The New York Racing [Association] people for letting us have 15 minutes of safe environment.”
O’Neill added that after speaking with the stewards, he hopes to be able to move I’ll Have Another and his stable pony, Lava Man, into the Belmont Stakes barn Monday after training. All Belmont Stakes contenders are required to be in the barn by noon on Wednesday.
“They’re letting us have Lava Man there, which is great,” said O’Neill. “The [horses] are used to being with their buddies. To be in a barn all by yourself … even though he could handle it, but to have Lava Man in there, that will be cool. That’s his little buddy.”
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Five Sixteen turned in his final pre-Belmont Stakes breeze on Thursday, posting a 1:00.98 five-furlong move in company with stablemate Live for Today.
“It was good,” said Dominick Schettino, who trains Five Sixteen for MeB Racing Stables. “He did everything we asked.”
Schettino added that Five Sixteen will have schooling sessions in the starting gate and paddock prior to the Belmont Stakes. The colt is 1-1-1 in six starts and enters the race off a fourth in an April 18 optional claimer at Aqueduct Racetrack.
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Optimizer, who breezed five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 yesterday at Churchill Downs, is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park on Tuesday, according to his Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.
“It went very well,” said Lukas via telephone. “It wasn’t anything too important. He’s ready.”
Optimizer, 11th in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness for owner Blue Grass Hall, will be the only horse besides I’ll Have Another to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
“I’m not going into the race thinking about possibly being a spoiler,” said Lukas. “It’s a very important race, and I’m in it to win it.”
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Connections of the other Belmont Stakes contenders revealed their training plans for the next few days, with the majority of the field to breeze on Saturday or Sunday.
Dullahan will almost certainly breeze at 8:30 Saturday morning, regardless of the weather or track condition, said Dale Romans. It will be Javier Castellano’s first time aboard the Kentucky Derby third-place finisher.
The connections of Street Life, Atigun, and Unstoppable U said their colts are tentatively scheduled to breeze Saturday, pending track condition.
Although Belmont is now restricting track access from 8:30-8:40 to Belmont Stakes contenders, Street Life is scheduled to go out at 8:45 a.m. Cherie DeVaux, assistant to trainer Chad Brown, said the colt trains better when there is ample activity on the track. Should they postpone the breeze, the colt will gallop either on the main track or training track on Saturday and breeze on the main track Sunday.
Ken McPeek trainees Atigun and Unstoppable U are set to breeze separately at 8:30 on Saturday, but their workouts could be pushed back to Sunday if there’s moisture on the main track, according to assistant trainer Lars Becdelamotte. Should the workouts be pushed back to Sunday, Julien Leparoux, who is riding at Woodbine on Saturday, will be aboard Atigun. If not, a to-be-determined exercise rider will have the assignment on Saturday. Junior Alvarado will ride Unstoppable U for his workout on Saturday or Sunday.
Union Rags will breeze at Fair Hill in Maryland on Saturday or Sunday, with trainer Michael Matz saying the latter was the more likely option. Jockey John Velazquez will make the trek south for the move.
Paynter will breeze Sunday or Monday, according to Jim Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Guyana Star Dweej could on Wednesday or Thursday have one final breeze prior to the Belmont, his trainer, Doodnauth Shivmangal, said on Tuesday.
A call to Manuel Azpurua, trainer of Ravelo’s Boy, went unreturned.