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Belmont longshots begin arriving in New York
Following a 23-hour van ride from Calder Race Course in Florida, Ravelo's Boy arrived at Belmont Park shortly after 7 a.m. on Tuesday and became the first horse to take up residence in the track's designated Belmont Stakes barn.
The chestnut son of Lawyer Ron was accompanied on the trip by Roberto Riasco and Enrique Barcenas, assistants to trainer Manny Azpurua. Ravelo's Boy walked the enclosed shedrow before bedding down in stall 2.
"He had to walk. It's a long trip," Barcenas said. "He behaved real nice. There was a lot of rain and a lot of wind on the drive but no problems. Everything was fine."
Saturday's Belmont Stakes will be the 14th career start for Ravelo's Boy, but his first outside of Florida. In his most recent effort, he finished fifth of 11, beaten 6 3/4 lengths, following a wide trip in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10.
"He's a nice horse. Wherever you ask him to run, he will run," Barcenas said. "He will do something good in this race. We're very proud to be here.
"We came to win the race. If we can't win the race and we come in second or third, we'll be very happy. But we came all the way from Florida for the race, and the horse is doing real good."
Jockey Alex Solis will ride Ravelo's Boy for the first time in the Belmont. It will be the sixth Belmont for Solis, whose best finish was a second with Aptitude in 2000.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas and his team with Optimizer arrived at Belmont Park at 4 a.m. Tuesday after a 14-hour, 15-minute van ride from Kentucky.
Lukas bedded down his Belmont Stakes entrant in the barn of John Hertler and also had three-year-old Skyring (Easy Goer Stakes, Belmont undercard), sprinter Hamazing Destiny (Grade 2 True North Handicap) and a maiden in tow.
Optimizer finished a combined 27 1/2 lengths behind I'll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and Lukas knows the Belmont Stakes is a tall order. Yet, in conversation, the Hall of Famer optimizes his optimism about his chances.
"It's going to take a lot, but I think he fits this race best, better than the other two," said Lukas, who recognized the English Channel-A.P. Indy pedigree of Optimizer as perhaps the most stamina-oriented of all the runners in the field. "I thought that from the very beginning, and I said going in, we're going to use the Preakness for the Belmont.
"He might not be good enough to win it, but with a clear run, he can get a piece."
Lukas will have Optimizer gallop in the first set, at approximately 5:30 a.m., on Wednesday morning and then move him into the stakes barn. On Thursday and Friday, the colt will take to the track at 8:30 a.m. to train with the rest of the field.
In other Belmont Stakes news:
Dullahan maintained his busy training busy schedule, galloping 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar on Tuesday. The chestnut colt returned to the track Monday for a jog following a four-furlong breeze in :45 4/5 on Sunday.
Union Rags, who holds a Grade 1 victory at Belmont Park with his 5 1/4-length score in the 2011 Champagne, will depart Fair Hill Training Center for the 160-mile trip to New York Wednesday morning, said trainer Michael Matz.
"We're just trying to do the best we can to get there before noon," Matz said. "The track (here) opens at 5:30 a.m., he'll gallop, and by the time he's cooled out we won't leave until 7:30 or 8 o'clock, and then we'll hit rush-hour traffic."
Matz said he would be leaving the Elkton, Maryland, training center prior to Union Rags and hopes to be on hand to oversee the colt's arrival at Belmont Park.
Paynter had a leisurely jog on Tuesday and will resume galloping on Wednesday, according to Jim Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.