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Dullahan, Street Life breeze; Atigun, Unstoppable U probable for Belmont
Dullahan, third behind I'll Have Another and Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby, was scheduled to work after Saturday's renovation break at Churchill Downs, but trainer Dale Romans called an audible and sent the chestnut son of Even the Score out for a one-mile breeze at 6:15 a.m. (EDT), shortly after the track opened for training.
"I was afraid it was going to be too hot and muggy at 8:30," Romans explained. "We wanted to beat the heat."
Dullahan covered the distance on the fast track in 1:43 under former jockey and regular work rider Tammy Fox. Romans' star recorded fractions of :26, :38 3/5, :51 2/5, 1:04 3/5 and 1:17 2/5 before galloping out 1 1/8 miles in 1:57.
"He worked great," Romans said. "It was just what we were looking for. He seemed to get stronger as he went along
"It was old school as we worked him one mile to try to get more into him," Romans added. "It's been a long time (since I had a horse work one mile). He didn't seem tired afterwards and he galloped out nicely."
It was the second work for Dullahan since his third-place finish in the Derby and Romans said he will work once more before the Belmont.
"He's going to van to New York tomorrow (Sunday) night and arrive at Belmont early Monday morning," Romans said. "He'll breeze next Saturday at Belmont."
Romans said jockey Javier Castellano, who will ride Dullahan in the Belmont, would be aboard for next Saturday's final move for the "Test of the Champion." Castellano will replace jockey Kent Desormeaux, who rode Dullahan in his last five races and was aboard for his victories in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity and Grade 1 Blue Grass over the Polytrack at Keeneland.
"We're going from a Hall of Fame jockey to a future Hall of Fame jockey," Romans said. "Also, Castellano knows the track (at Belmont) very well."
Romans said he initially wanted to run Dullahan in the Preakness following his third in the Kentucky Derby but was talked out of it by owner Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing, who wanted to wait for the Belmont. The trainer now believes Crawford had the best strategy.
"In hindsight, I think Jerry made the right decision," Romans admitted. "This gives us the best chance to win a classic."
Romans will board a plane bound for New York early Sunday afternoon to saddle Shackleford in Monday's Grade 1 Met Mile.
Street Life, a winner of two of his five career starts and most recently third in the Grade 2 Peter Pan, tuned up for his engagement in the Belmont this morning with a sharp four-furlong breeze over the good main track at Big Sandy in :47 4/5.
Exercise rider Richard Johnson was aboard for the move, the ninth-fastest of 44 at the distance.
"I was real happy with the move," said Chad Brown, who trains the dark bay son of Street Sense. "He galloped out well and came back good, so it was just what I was looking for. I think this horse is bred to run all day, and he trains like he wants to run all day, so I'm excited to get him to that 1 1/2-mile distance and see what he does."
Street Life will be among as many as 11 lining up to put a stop to I'll Have Another's bid to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner, but Brown has no qualms about assuming the role of potential spoiler.
"I'm a racing fan, so of course I'd like to see another Triple Crown winner," he said. "But nine years ago when I worked for Bobby Frankel, we were in the same position. I saw him stop Funny Cide with Empire Maker. It wasn't a real popular win but he had a plan to win that race, and I'm just trying to follow the same pattern."
Among those 11 headed to the Belmont are Atigun and Unstoppable U. Lars Becdelamotte, assistant to trainer Ken McPeek, said both are probable after the pair turned in separate breezes on Saturday on Belmont's good main dirt.
"I'm very happy with both works," Becdelamotte said. "Right now, I think both are going to the Belmont Stakes. Atigun is 100 percent, and Unstoppable U is 99 percent."
Atigun went four furlongs in :46 3/5, quickest of 44 moves at the distance.
"He looked like he handled the track unbelievably," Becdelamotte said of the Istan colt who captured a May 5 optional claimer at Churchill Downs.
Lightly raced Unstoppable U had an unexpected target during his breeze but jockey Junior Alvarado was able to restrain the colt, who was eager to pursue the worker in front of him. Like Atigun, Unstoppable U earned a bullet for his effort as he went five furlongs in :59 1/5, quickest of 10 moves on the day.
"Junior didn't want to let the horse just run because he would have run the other horse down and go in 58 and change," Becdelamotte said. "But at the same time, he let him run a little bit. No concerns about it."
Both Atigun and Unstoppable U are tentatively scheduled to breeze five furlongs next Saturday, according to Becdelamotte. The latter, an undefeated gray son of Exchange Rate, will be making his stakes bow in the Belmont Stakes off a 6 1/4-length optional claiming score going a mile over the track on April 27.