“It looks like he gets over the track fantastic,” said trainer Doug O’Neill’s assistant, Jack Sisterson. “He looked super, his energy level is high and he’s doing everything we want to see him doing.
I’ll Have Another’s schedule calls for him to resume galloping Friday morning as he prepares for the 1 ½-mile Belmont and the chance to join the 11 equine legends who have swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. In the 34 years since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, 11 horses have come into the Belmont Stakes with a chance to sweep the series only to come up short in the Belmont, most recently Big Brown in 2008.
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Working at Fair Hill in Maryland, Union Rags on Thursday turned in a 1:01 five-furlong breeze, pleasing trainer Michael Matz.
“I was looking for him to go in 1:01,” said Matz, who trains the 2011 Grade 1 Champagne and 2012 Grade 2 Fountain of Youth winner for Chadds Ford Stable. “He went nicely. We’re happy with him, and he’ll have one more work next week.”
Exercise rider Peter Brette was at the helm on Thursday, with jockey John Velazquez possible to be aboard Union Rags for his final breeze before the Belmont Stakes, Matz said. The Belmont will be Union Rags’ first race with Velazquez in the saddle as he’ll replace Julien Leparoux, who rode Union Rags to a victory in the Fountain of Youth, a third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, and a seventh in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.
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Owner/trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal on Thursday confirmed Guyana Star Dweej likely will start in either the June 9 Belmont Stakes or the $90,000 Easy Goer overnight stakes on the Belmont undercard.
“I’m a typical New Yorker, and I prefer to give my people support by racing here,” said Shivmangal. “I’d love to run at the other tracks, but this is my favorite place and my favorite track. And everybody loves to have a home-court advantage. If you’re at home, you do things better than if you were at another track.”
Guyana Star Sweej is 1-5-0 in 9 starts and was most recently seen finishing second by 6 ¼ lengths to Belmont contender Unstoppable U in an April 27 allowance at Belmont.
Shivmangal said he has nearly two weeks before he’ll have to make a final decision, but in the interim is training Guyana Star Dweej as if he’ll be competing in the 1 ½-mile Belmont.
“I want to get him accustomed to the mile and a half,” said Shivmangal. “We start at the eighth pole and gallop the entire mile and a half. He took it nicely today. Weather permitting, we’re going to breeze Saturday and the following week. I’m not a big breezer; I do a lot of two-minute licks and two-minute clips.”
Guyana Star Dweej was under consideration for the Preakness before Shivmangal decided to target the June 9 stakes instead.
“He grabbed a quarter before the Preakness, and because of the inclement weather we had we couldn’t work him properly,” said Shivmangal. “We didn’t want to go into the Preakness half fit.”