Sunday, June 10, 2012
Belmont runners eye rematches
Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter will head back to California Monday morning with plans to return to New York this summer for Saratoga's Grade 1 Travers on August 25, trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday morning.
"He'll go back home, freshen up, and we'll look to bring him back somewhere on the East coast," Baffert explained. "Maybe the Jim Dandy [on July 28 at Saratoga] -- we're shooting for the Travers with him. We have [Derby and Preakness runner-up] Bodemeister for the Haskell [on July 29 at Monmouth Park]."
According to the Hall of Fame trainer, with the exception of a nick on his left hind leg, Paynter returned from his neck loss to Union Rags in good shape.
"He lost his left hind shoe in the race," Baffert said. "I don't know when it happened, but it must have been near the end."
Baffert indicated he, as well, emerged from the race in fairly good shape.
"Second is still sinking in," he said.
Trainer Ken McPeek was pleased with the performances of his two long-shot runners in Saturday's Belmont Stakes and already has begun plotting ambitious plans for them.
Unstoppable U made noise in the 1 1/2-mile race early before tiring to finish sixth while Atigun rallied from midpack to finish a close-up third, just 1 3/4 lengths behind Union Rags and Paynter.
At nearly 12-1 for Unstoppable U and 20-1 for Atigun, both outran their odds.
"Our horses came out of the race fine," McPeek said on Sunday. "We asked a lot out of Unstoppable U," who tracked the pace of Paynter for a mile in only the third start of his career. "He ran a great race. We'll look for a Grade 2 or Grade 3 for him, [or] possibly the Haskell."
According to McPeek, Atigun is headed for Saratoga this summer.
"Atigun came out fine, too," he said. "We'll probably go to the Jim Dandy and the ultimate goal will be the Travers."
Trainer Chad Brown reported Sunday morning that Street Life was drained but healthy following his fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
"He came out of the race in good shape," he said. "He's a little tired, but he looks sound. We're just going to regroup and think about our next spot with him."
Under jockey Jose Lezcano, Street Life raced at the back of the 11-horse field through moderate fractions set by the front-running Paynter, closing down the stretch on the far outside and was beaten 7 1/2 lengths.
"I was a little disappointed the horse didn't show a little more interest early and naturally lay closer," Brown admitted, "but he tends to be a lazy kind of horse. He just didn't have good position early, and then lacked the turn of foot to really make a serious impact on the top three finishers. All things considered, I thought the horse ran fairly well. He put his run in; it wasn't good enough."
Brown was complimentary of Belmont winner Union Rags, who rebounded from two tough-trip losses to rally along the rail and beat Paynter by a neck.
"It was an outstanding day of racing that Belmont Park put on, and I think the Belmont Stakes in particular was an outstanding race," he said. "Yeah, we lost a major player in I'll Have Another, and everyone was disappointed with that; however, I think the best horse won the race.
"Union Rags showed at two that he was one of the best horses in the crop, if not the best horse. I think he validated that again yesterday. I think he's going to be a force to be reckoned with the rest of the year. He's not a horse that I'd be looking to run against if I had the choice."
Looking ahead, Brown said he would consider the Jim Dandy for Street Life, who has two wins, a third and a fourth in six career races.
"I'm going to point him toward the Jim Dandy and just see what's happening," the trainer remarked. "I want to back him up in distance and hopefully get more pace to run into.
"He's got something to prove. He's been knocking on the door, but he needs to be a little faster to beat these horses. I'm going to give him the opportunity to continue to develop into the kind of horse that can make a stronger impact in these races. I think he still has a lot of upside, and I don't think we've seen the best of him yet."