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I'll Have Another jogs at Big Sandy
Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another returned to the track for the first time since Saturday's Preakness Stakes victory, jogging around Belmont Park's 1 1/2-mile oval Wednesday morning shortly after the renovation break with exercise rider Hector Ramos aboard.
"We took him to the track and jogged him once around, and he looked absolutely super," said Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill. "The way he looked was everything and more I'd want to see in him. Energy level was high, got over the ground well, ate up everything last night. Just looks super.
"He came out of the Derby in the exact same shape, and came out of the Preakness, if not the same, probably better."
Sisterson said the Flower Alley colt would likely jog again Thursday morning, and have his first gallop on Friday as he prepares for the 144th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9.
"We'll probably do the same thing at the same time tomorrow, right after the break," he said. "He's cooling out great right there; there's no reason we shouldn't do the same thing tomorrow, (and gallop) possibly Friday. We'll take each day as it comes."
Sisterson said the morale of "Team O'Neill" is sky-high as I'll Have Another tries to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
"I think it hasn't quite sunk in, the position that we're in," he admitted. "We go out to dinner and lunch, and we always pull out our phones and watch the replays. It sends shivers down our spines. It's just super."
O'Neill will likely arrive in New York sometime this weekend, according to Sisterson.
Also returning to the track for light work on Wednesday was Paynter, whose connections are considering a start in the Belmont Stakes.
On Saturday, Paynter easily won a Pimlico allowance by 5 3/4 lengths as the 1-10 favorite. Paynter, like Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister, is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for owner Zayat Stables.
"(Paynter) looks good and has a good energy level," Jim Barnes, assistant to Baffert, reported from Belmont on Wednesday.
The Awesome Again colt was fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, won by I'll Have Another, on April 7. He entered Saturday's allowance race off a second in the Grade 3 Derby Trial on April 28 at Churchill Downs.
Stablemate Bodemeister will bypass the Belmont, his connections have said.
In other Belmont news:
Trainer Michael Matz said that Union Rags will work either Thursday or Friday at Fair Hill Training Center in preparation for the Belmont, in which he will have the services of new jockey John Velazquez.
"He's doing very well," Matz said during a Wednesday teleconference. "He might work tomorrow, maybe Friday. (Owner) Mrs. (Phyllis) Wyeth is on her way back from Maine, and if she wants to see him work we'll do it tomorrow or Friday. We're hoping John Velazquez will work him in his last work (the following weekend)."
Union Rags was 3-1-0 from four starts as a two-year-old, including a score in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont, and won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth by four lengths in his 2012 debut. After he ran into traffic problems in both the Grade 1 Florida Derby, in which he was third, and the Kentucky Derby, in which he was seventh, Velazquez was named aboard the Dixie Union colt.
"It's been frustrating, I don't think in either of his last two races he got a chance to really run," Matz said of Union Rags. "I just hope he gets a clean trip. Whether he's good enough to beat (I'll Have Another), I don't know. I just want him to get a clean trip and show what he can do.
"I wouldn't be going in (the Belmont) if I didn't think he could beat I'll Have Another," he added. "He's a big horse, and once he gets into a nice rhythm...that's why we went with John Velazquez. He knows New York."
Matz said travel plans for Union Rags were still undetermined.
Rosie Napravnik, who on May 4 became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks when she guided Believe You Can to a three-quarter-length victory, has been named to ride MeB Racing Stables' Five Sixteen in the Belmont Stakes, her agent, Matt Muzikar, confirmed on Wednesday.
Napravnik will attempt to emulate Julie Krone, who in 1993 became the first woman to win a Triple Crown race when she captured the Belmont Stakes aboard Colonial Affair. Krone remains the only female jockey to have competed in the Belmont or to have won a Triple Crown event.
Five Sixteen, an Invasor colt, broke his maiden in his fifth try on March 14 at Aqueduct and was last seen finishing fourth by 11 3/4 in a nine-furlong allowance at the Big A on April 18.