06/06/2012 4:10PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Azpurua happy in role as outsider with Ravelo’s Boy

Tom Keyser
Ravelo's Boy will be making his first start in three months in the Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Manny Azpurua will be the first to admit his Ravelo’s Boy is a decided outsider in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. But then again, Azpurua has always relished the idea of being the underdog and flying well below the radar whether at home or when venturing out of south Florida.

“I know I’m the black sheep in here,” said Azpurua. “But I’m always the black sheep when I leave Calder, and my horses have always been right there in graded races up north.”

Azpurua was referring to horses like Nightmare Affair and Extended Applause who ran big races at big prices in major races outside of Florida, including the Breeders’ Cup. Nightmare Affair finished third, beaten just a half-length for second, at odds of 29-1 for Azpurua in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs. Extended Applause finished second in the Grade 1 Spinaway and Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga as well as second behind Silverbulletday in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Alcibiades prior to checking home fourth in the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

[BELMONT STAKES: Past performances, video updates, contender profiles, odds]

“One of these days, instead of just finishing right there, I’m going to come out on top in one of these big races,” said Azpurua, who won more than 3,500 races in his native Venezuela before coming to the United States and settling in at Calder in 1979. “Although, I admit I would be very happy if we can finish in the top three in the Belmont.”

Ravelo’s Boy has not started since finishing a troubled fifth three months earlier in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, but he has been training up a storm preparing for his return on the deeper surface over his home base at Calder.

“The way he’s been working down there has been something special, every week he’s getting better and better,” Azpurua said. “The last one was very special. He galloped twice around before working and he was just flying all the way. The boy never asked him or let him go.”
Ravelo’s Boy worked five furlongs in 58.80 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.80 on Sunday at Calder. One week earlier, he went seven furlongs in 1:28 and galloped out a mile in 1:41.

“I think the distance will help him. I’ve said all along the further he goes the better, and his mare has thrown a lot of horses who go long,” Azpurua said. “He’s doing great, he’s happy, and I think he’s going to run a very big race Saturday.”

Ravelo’s Boy was the first of the prospective Belmont starters to train after the renovation break Wednesday. Once again, Dullahan left the best impression with another very aggressive gallop that included a series of 14-second eighth-mile splits from the wire around to the backstretch.

I’ll Have Another, on the other hand, did not finish up as strong at the end of his routine one-mile gallop as he had over the weekend, completing his final half at just slightly faster than a two-minute clip.