06/03/2012 3:22PM

2012 Belmont Stakes: Dullahan makes fast workout look easy

Barbara D. Livingston
I'll Have Another schools Sunday on a beautiful morning at Belmont Park. He followed with a strong one-mile gallop for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Jockey Javier Castellano was walking Dullahan back to trainer Dale Romans's barn after having just worked the third-place finisher in this year’s Kentucky Derby a half-mile Sunday morning at Belmont Park when he stopped briefly to ask the gap attendant how fast he’d gone.

“The man said ‘45’ and I said no way, that can’t be right, it’s too fast,” said Castellano, who had never been on Dullahan prior to Sunday’s work and who’ll ride the Blue Grass winner for the first time in the Belmont Stakes.

In actuality, Dullahan completed a half-mile in an eye-catching 45.82 seconds, according to Daily Racing Form, following an opening quarter mile in 22.20.  Dullahan galloped out five-eighths in 58.91 while easily the most impressive of five prospective Belmont starters to work over a fast track on a picture-perfect morning at Belmont Park.

Overall, seven of the 11 horses listed as probable starters for the Belmont worked on Sunday, including Union Rags at Fair Hill in Maryland and Ravelo’s Boy at Calder.

“I couldn’t believe he worked that fast,” said Castellano. “If you’d asked me I’d have said we went in 48 and galloped out in a minute. He went so easily. I was like a statue on him. I sat still to the top of the stretch, he switched leads right at the quarter pole, and was loaded out from there. If I never saw his past performances, I would have thought he was a sprinter who would be one-two early in the race.”

Castellano then gave Dullahan the ultimate compliment by comparing him with one of his past champions.

“He reminded me of Ghostzapper the way he worked,” said Castellano. “You’d watch him work five furlongs, it would look like he went in 1:02 and he’d go in a minute. Sometimes the numbers will fool you and I know the track was fast and I was the first to work after the break this morning. But even still, he was very impressive. He’s feeling good, he wants to run, he’s very sharp and moving forward. I’m very excited.”

So is Dullahan’s trainer, Dale Romans.

“I’m very happy,” said Romans. “I don’t care what the time was, he did it the right way. It looked like he was galloping. He did the same thing before the Blue Grass and that was the best race he’s ever run. I think he’s sharp right now and on top of his game. Everybody keeps talking about the dirt, but that proves it today. He’s going to run well over this racetrack. I wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the Belmont.” 

A pair of teams breezing simultaneously - Paynter working seven furlongs in company with stablemate Brigand, and Street Life going five-eighths along with Zivo - began their works as Dullahan was nearing the wire.

Paynter broke off at the 6 1/2-furlong pole approximately three lengths behind his target and completed his opening three furlongs in 37.10. He then was fully extended for nearly a quarter-mile to finally catch his partner, who was in hand through much of the stretch, before eventually pulling five lengths clear after completing seven furlongs under pressure in 1:24.57. He galloped out a mile in 1:37.40.

Street Life, working in blinkers, began about a length behind Zivo and remained a length back after covering his opening three-eighths in 36.51. He finally wore down his mate under mild urging, hitting the wire a neck in front after completing five-eighths in 1:01.16. The pair continued on even terms with Street Life galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.53.

“He’s not a horse who’ll dazzle you in the morning,” trainer Chad Brown said of Street Life. “I thought he worked well, galloped out well. It was just what I was looking for. His energy level has been tremendous on a daily basis. He’s sitting on another forward move, he’s going to run another career top on Saturday. Whether that’s fast enough or good enough remains to be seen.”

Trainer Ken McPeek’s pair of Atigun and Unstoppable U were the last of the Belmont horses to work here Sunday.
Atigun, with Julien Leparouz aboard, went an even and easy half-mile in 48.44, completing his final quarter in 24.28 while pretty much in hand before galloping out five-eighths in 1:01.32.

Unstoppable U worked five furlongs in 1:02.13 but took an erratic path through much of the stretch, switching leads a couple of times before finally getting over to his right lead near midstretch, after which he leveled off nicely to gallop out six furlongs in 1:14.24 under jockey Junior Alvarado.

McPeek said a short while later that he was now undecided regarding Unstoppable U’s starting status for the Belmont.

“He worked sloppy last time too,” said McPeek. “He wants to hang on that left lead for some reason. Maybe it’s a seasoning issue. We’re going to wait until the last minute and decide. There’s a chance he might run in an overnight stakes (Easy Goer) on Saturday instead of the Belmont.”
In contrast, McPeek was extremely pleased with Atigun’s work.

“Atigun worked fantastic," McPeek said. "This horse is hitting on all cylinders right now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him better."

At Fair Hill, Union Rags worked five furlongs in 58.50, according to Daily Racing Form, before galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.38 with jockey John Velazquez up. At Calder, Ravaello’s Boy went five-eighths in 58.20 with a six-furlong gallop-out of 1:11.80.

Another strong gallop for I'll Have Another

After visiting the paddock for the first time since his arrival in New York, I’ll Have Another turned in an extremely strong one-mile gallop. He completed a half-mile in 52.29 from the top of the stretch into the clubhouse turn, with the final quarter  in a very sharp 25.07.

“The last three or four furlongs we just let him put his feet where he wants to put them,” said trainer Doug O’Neill. “We had a really nice track today. It’s just a matter of him feeling it, stretching and wanting to do it. That’s the way we do it with all of them. It’s not brain surgery. That’s the way they breathe and run in the afternoon.”