Updated on 09/17/2011 9:33PM

Southern Africa's shot at big time


The colt was bred in Kentucky, first campaigned in England, imported to California, sent to Texas to punch his ticket into the Triple Crown, then transferred to Arlington Park to train up to the Belmont Stakes. And Friday morning, his trainer was in California, peeking in on his West Coast string.

Don't worry. Southern Africa's complex history is moving toward a clear, solid goal - getting 1 1/2 miles June 11 at Belmont Park. He will have his final work for the race Sunday at Arlington, a six-furlong solo breeze, according to Southern California-based trainer Mike Puhich, who sent a string of horses to Chicago for the first time this season.

"It's centrally located," Puhich said of Arlington. "It's easy to ship around to different places."

This week's destination: New York. Southern Africa flies out Wednesday morning.

He earned the trip by scoring a mild upset May 14 in the Lone Star Derby, rallying wide on the far turn to seize a clear lead he held through the stretch run. It was Southern Africa's second Southwest stakes win of the season; in late February, he shipped into Sunland Park to win the Borderland Derby.

Triple Crown horses aren't generally manufactured in New Mexico and Texas - but Puhich thinks he has one.

"The numbers coming into the race say he's got as good a chance as anyone," said Puhich. "Of course, that and $3 will get you a cup of coffee these days."

While Southern Africa figures to be a longshot in the Belmont, Puhich isn't looking through that lens. "I'm not concerned about the odds," he said. "I think if he can repeat the race he ran at Lone Star, he'll have as good a chance as anyone. He's run against Giacomo and Declan's Moon and was right there with them."

Southern Africa is by Cape Town and out of the English mare Al Fahda. After being purchased as a yearling for just $16,500 at a Kentucky auction, he was sent to England, where he won 2 of 3 starts at age 2. Puhich said Southern Africa was being prepared for a trip to Dubai and a first start on dirt, when his clients, Al and Sandee Kirkwood, purchased him privately.

"They'd been training him in England for left-hand turns and said the horse needed to come to America," Puhich said. "He was training like an American horse."

Southern Africa has smarts, said Puhich, and had little trouble acclimating when he arrived in California last season. He finished fourth in the Hollywood Prevue at seven furlongs and fourth in the Hollywood Futurity over 1 1/16 miles. In sprints, Southern Africa raced from mid-pack; at two turns, he stays closer to the pace.

"He has that strong gallop, and he seems to be able to maintain it no matter what pace they're going," said Puhich. "He wears you down, and I think that's the kind of horse that's going to win the Belmont."

In other Belmont developments:

* Trainer Patrick Biancone said he expects a much-improved effort in the Belmont from Chekhov, who was fourth as the favorite in last week's Peter Pan Stakes. Chekhov is scheduled to work Monday at Saratoga.

"He got bumped at the start and lost his position," Biancone said. "He wasn't as sharp as he will be for the Belmont. He made a great move on the turn. The race will do him a lot of good."

Biancone said Chekhov, a $3.3 million auction purchase, has come around quicker than he anticipated.

"Initially we expected him to be well for the Travers, so he's two or three months ahead," Biancone said. "The distance of the Belmont will not be a problem. I'm happy with what I've seen so far."

- Bob Baffert said that Sort It Out, who finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby, would bypass the Belmont Stakes and instead point for the $100,000 Mike Lee Stakes for New York-breds June 26. "I only wanted to run in the Belmont if it came up with a small field," Baffert said Friday. "Then maybe we'd have taken a shot."

- Jerry Bailey has picked up the mount on A.P. Arrow, the D. Wayne Lukas trainee who was a recent maiden winner at Churchill Downs.

- Nolan's Cat, who was second to A.P. Arrow in that maiden race, is under consideration for the Belmont. Trainer Dale Romans informed Belmont's racing office that a decision on whether Nolan's Cat would run would be made by Sunday.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Jay Privman