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Paynter, Alpha breeze five-eighths at Belmont
Belmont Stakes hopeful Paynter drilled five furlongs over the fast Belmont Park training track Sunday morning, covering the distance under exercise rider Simon Harris in :59 1/5, the fastest of 38 recorded works at the distance.
"He worked nice," said Jim Barnes, assistant to the colt's Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. "We were planning on the main track, but they sealed the main track, so we opted for the training track. They went out at 9:30 (a.m. EDT), after the second break. Bob told me to go in a minute, and that's about as close to a minute as I can get."
A son of Awesome Again, Paynter easily broke his maiden going 5 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita in February, and in his next start finished a respectable fourth behind Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby going 1 1/8 miles en route to a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Derby Trial while cutting back to a mile at Churchill Downs.
Paynter earned a 107 BRIS Speed figure when romping by 5 3/4 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard.
"Bob told me to get the work out of the way today," Barnes said. "He ran eight days ago, but we're dealing with weather. They're expecting more rain tonight than they got today, so what's another day?
"The horse's energy level is great, and he's lightly raced. He's only run four times, and he's got to go a mile and a half. You train him a little differently than you train a horse that's already gone through the Triple Crown races. Just to get to the Triple Crown races is grueling enough as it is. Can he go a mile and half? None of them have, so you really don't know, but you're hoping. Pedigree says he should and I definitely think we brought a fresh horse here, so that's going to help."
Paynter's dam, the Cee's Tizzy mare Tizso, is a full sister to Horse of the Year Tiznow, the only horse to repeat in the 10-furlong Breeders' Cup Classic.
The weather may have also affected Alpha's move on Sunday as the Bernardini colt breezed five furlongs over the Belmont training track shortly after 6:15 a.m. Sunday morning. Sent out under exercise rider Ricardo Ponce, he was clocked in 1:01 4/5 for his second breeze following a 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
"We worked early, called an audible. Nothing new with Alpha, calling an audible," joked trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, referring to Alpha's fluid schedule of preps leading up to the Derby. "Everything went well, he's doing very well, and so far, we're planning on running (in the Belmont) with Ramon Dominguez."
Piloted by Dominguez at Aqueduct over the winter, Alpha won a pair of stakes -- the Count Fleet and Grade 3 Withers -- and missed by a neck in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. The bay colt has been first or second in all but two of his career starts -- the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Juvenile, in which he finished 11th. Both off-the-board finishes came at Churchill Downs.
"We're just going to throw out the Churchill Downs races," said McLaughlin, who won the 2006 Belmont Stakes with Jazil. "He doesn't like it there.
"I have a lot of respect for three or four horses (pointing for the Belmont). I'll Have Another, Union Rags, Dullahan...but you never know with this mile and a half. You never know. You just have to play each horse as an individual, and take it day by day."
In other Belmont news:
Trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal said Sunday that his Belmont Stakes hopeful, Guyana Star Dweej, would probably breeze a half-mile Monday after plans to breeze Sunday morning were abandoned.
"The (main) track was sealed, so we changed it to most likely tomorrow," Shivmangal explained. "He went for a nice little gallop on the main track today. We want to breeze him on the main track, weather permitting, but we'll see which track suits us better tomorrow. Today, most people worked here."
Guyana Star Dweej, a chestnut son of Eddington who will be making his stakes bow in the Belmont Stakes, finished second in an April 27 allowance race at Big Sandy behind fellow Belmont contender Unstoppable U, an undefeated Exchange Rate colt.