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Dullahan, Paynter work sharply at Belmont
At Belmont Park on Sunday, Dullahan and Paynter topped a five-strong brigade of Belmont Stakes workers.
Multiple Grade 1 winner Dullahan blitzed a half-mile in a bullet :45 4/5 with Javier Castellano aboard. The Kentucky Derby third-placer posted by far the fastest of 66 moves at the distance on Belmont's fast main track.
The Dale Romans trainee started fast through an opening quarter in :22 1/5, and kept motoring to gallop out five furlongs in :58 4/5. Even his gallop-out time was faster than the five-furlong bullet of :59 2/5 turned in by champion Royal Delta.
"I thought it was super," said Romans, who trains Dullahan for Donegal Racing.
Romans compared Dullahan's breeze to the :57 2/5 five-furlong drill he posted at Keeneland on April 8, eight days prior to his victory in the Grade 1 Blue Grass.
"When he works like that, he runs big," Romans said. "He looked like he was galloping, and then we got back to the barn he recovered quickly. He wasn't blowing. I think he's ready."
Sunday marked the first time Castellano, who will ride Dullahan in the Belmont, was aboard the half-brother to Mine That Bird.
"(Castellano) loved it," Romans reported. "He said if you hadn't told him the time, he would have said :48 or :49."
In the Belmont Stakes, Dullahan will attempt to avenge his third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, in which he made a seven-wide run to finish a diminishing 1 1/2 lengths behind I'll Have Another. Dullahan skipped the Preakness to train up to the Belmont.
"I'm happy with my position," Romans said. "I wouldn't change places with anybody in this race."
Romans said Dullahan will either walk or jog on Monday, then gallop into the race.
Street Life breezed five-eighths in 1:01, with an opening quarter in :25 and a six-furlong gallop-out in 1:13 2/5. The Chad Brown colt worked in company with Zivo, a twice-raced maiden, who recorded the same time.
"I was looking for five-eighths in 1:01 and that's exactly what he did," Brown said of Street Life, who captured the Broad Brush Stakes and exits a closing third in the Grade 2 Peter Pan.
"He worked very good. He galloped out good and came back with plenty of energy. I just want to maintain where he's at. I really wasn't looking to do anything more than that, so mission accomplished."
According to Brown, Street Life has always been a "little lazy," but Brown added that the horse has matured and become sharper as a three-year-old, particularly after the addition of blinkers.
"I could maybe work him by himself now, but just to be safe, I worked him in company."
As a former assistant to trainer Bobby Frankel, who spoiled Funny Cide's bid for the Triple Crown when he won the Belmont in 2003 with Empire Maker, Brown thinks that Frankel's advice would be to stick to the program for the horse and not make too many changes for this one race.
And like his mentor, he doesn't shrink from the idea of spoiling a Triple Crown.
"As a racing fan, I'd like to see a Triple Crown winner, but when I'm in the race, I certainly don't want to see it this year."
For Bob Baffert, Grade 3 Derby Trial runner-up Paynter sped seven furlongs in 1:25 with Rajiv Maragh aboard. The Zayat Stables runner worked in company with stablemate Brigand and behind Brown's pair of Street Life and Zivo.
Paynter recorded early splits of :24 3/5 and :49 1/5. He started two lengths behind Brigand, began to close in on his stablemate while traveling down the middle of the home stretch, overtook his partner inside the sixteenth-pole, and was ridden out a furlong past the finish line.
"Bob likes that kind of work, and I saw what I needed to see," assistant trainer Jim Barnes said. "He'll sit and wait, and when you ask him he responds. When (Maragh) asked him to go, he accelerated by his company and up to Chad Brown's horses."
Barnes said he didn't expect Paynter to catch up to Street Life and Zivo, but that Paynter's proximity to Brown's pair of five-furlong breezers didn't affect anybody's workout.
"I thought they were quite a ways in front of us," Barnes said. "I'd have to see the works again to see where (Brown's horses) actually were when they went off, but I know we left at six and I thought they left at five."
Paynter, fourth to I'll Have Another in just his second start in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, enters the Belmont off a dominant allowance victory on the Preakness undercard. He'll likely walk on Monday, jog on Tuesday, and gallop up to the Belmont, according to Barnes.
Trainer Ken McPeek's duo of Atigun and Unstoppable U also recorded works on the Belmont main track.
Atigun covered his first quarter in :24 1/5 en route to finishing a half-mile in :48 2/5, and the recent Churchill Downs allowance winner galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 with Julien Leparoux.
"Julien felt like he was really strong under him," McPeek said. "I was real happy with the work. Nice and solid. He's at a really great stage right now."
Unstoppable U, coming off a big entry-level win at Big Sandy, negotiated five panels in 1:02. The undefeated gray toured his first two furlongs in a leisurely :25 4/5, and went on to gallop out six furlongs in 1:14 2/5.
The work left McPeek questioning whether Unstoppable U should try the Belmont.
"I was more concerned with him switching to his right lead when they straightened up than I was with the time of the work," McPeek revealed. "He really struggled in his last breeze switching leads and I'm not sure where that's coming from.
"I'm going to tell you he's probably 50-50 to run in the Belmont right now. I'm going to watch him the next few days; we don't have to make a decision until Wednesday.
"I wasn't thrilled with it. He hung on the left (lead) again to the eighth-pole. For him to win the Belmont, he can't do those kinds of things. It's just a bad habit, and it's really only popped up recently. We'll see. We'll give it a few more days and then make a decision. It's probably going to be what I call an audible at the line of scrimmage."
Video of contender workouts can be found on the Belmont Stakes website.