- Road to the Kentucky Derby
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Brown, McPeek hoping to pull Belmont upset
No horse was traveling faster through the Belmont Park stretch in the Grade 2 Peter Pan on May 12 than Street Life. After trailing in the field of 10 through a half-mile in a scorching :45 1/5, Street Life swung to the outside under jockey Jose Lezcano and turned it on to pass most of the field and wind up third, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by winner Mark Valeski.
Now, the son of Street Sense will attempt to go from that strong effort at 1 1/8 miles to the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on Saturday, and trainer Chad Brown expects nothing but the race of his life.
"I'm confident my horse is in tip-top shape, and I'm confident this horse is going to run the fastest number he's ever run," Brown said. "I don't think anybody can go into this race feeling confident that they're definitely going to win, but I am confident we belong in the race and that he's sitting on a top effort. Whether his top effort is good enough against these, you don't know until you actually do it."
The pace of the Peter Pan was hot, and Brown knows it could be different in the Belmont.
"Of course the pace is going to be different going a mile and a half, so the race will unfold differently, but as my horse matures I'm sure he'll be more adaptable in his races," he said. "If the pace is slower, he'll probably lay closer. He has a tremendous amount of stamina. He's not a big horse, but he can get the mile and a half. The question is how fast can he go."
Trainer Ken McPeek spoke highly of the 1 1/2-mile Tuesday gallops of Atigun and Unstoppable U as they train for their attempt to emulate Sarava, McPeek's protégé who ended War Emblem's Triple Crown bid with a 70-1 upset in the 2002 Belmont Stakes. McPeek called the gallops "Sarava gallops," having used the same routine with Sarava prior to his Belmont upset.
"We do that with all of our young horses," McPeek said. "We start that routine early in their career where they need to understand at what point to start their work and at what point to finish it. I think repetition is a good idea."
McPeek said he is leaning toward running Unstoppable U in the Belmont, but he did note the undefeated Exchange Rate colt did a much better job changing leads in Tuesday's gallop than he did in Sunday's breeze. The trainer said he'll wait until Wednesday, the day entries are taken for the Belmont, to make a final decision.
"(Exercise rider) Rafael Penna has done a great job (with Unstoppable U)," McPeek said. "The horse switches on cue for Rafael. Rafael, unfortunately, is almost 60, so he can't ride on Saturday. Rafael knows how to get him to switch. He has his number. I don't know why Junior Alvarado has had a little trouble getting him to switch leads. In his first race he didn't switch, and in his second race he was late. In workouts, he didn't switch at all in the first one and in the second one he was late again. If he's going to win this race, he's got to hit on cue."
Atigun, owned by Shortleaf Stable, is confirmed for the Belmont Stakes, McPeek said.