On Saturday morning at Belmont Park, Godolphin Racing's Alpha turned in his first timed workout since a 12th-place finish in the May 5 Kentucky Derby. The son of Bernardini, a two-time stakes winner at Aqueduct this winter, covered four furlongs over the main track in :49.
"We're not deciding anything yet, we're just going to watch things and let the horse tell us," said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "He's doing great though; good work yesterday, in hand."
Alpha captured the Count Fleet and Grade 3 Withers Stakes prior to a neck second in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes in April. The bay colt has experience at Belmont Park, running second in last year's Grade 1 Champagne Stakes behind fellow Belmont Stakes hopeful Union Rags.
Alpha and Union Rags are just two of a strong contingent looking to spoil I'll Have Another's Triple Crown bid when the three-year-olds assemble at Belmont on June 9 for the 1 1/2-mile "Test of the Champion."
Union Rags will return to the site of his 5 1/4-length Champagne win as he tries to regain the winning thread following a pair of tough trips when third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 and seventh in the Derby on May 5. The Dixie Union colt is unbeaten in New York, having taken the Grade 2 Saratoga Special by 7 1/4 lengths, and also sports a four-length triumph in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.
Dullahan fell 1 3/4 lengths short of emulating his half-brother Mine That Bird when he finished third in the Kentucky Derby. The Even the Score colt has a pair of Grade 1 victories over Keeneland's Polytrack to his credit, having won the Breeders' Futurity in October and the Blue Grass on April 14.
Rousing Sermon completes the list of horses who will go directly to the Belmont Stakes after competing in the Kentucky Derby. The Grade 1-placed son of Lucky Pulpit was eighth in the Derby following a third-place run in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.
Grade 1-placed Optimizer, 11th in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness, is probable to take another shot at I'll Have Another. The bay son of English Channel is trained by four-time Belmont Stakes winner D. Wayne Lukas.
Mark Valeski, who skipped the Kentucky Derby, will attempt to become the first horse to sweep the Grade 2 Peter Pan and Belmont Stakes since A.P. Indy pulled off the feat in 1992. Prior to his 1 1/4-length victory in the May 12 Peter Pan, the Proud Citizen colt was second in both the Grade 2 Risen Star and Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.
Paynter, a facile winner of a Pimlico allowance on the Preakness undercard, has faced I'll Have Another once before. In his second start, Paynter was fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, won by I'll Have Another, and then filled the runner-up spot in the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. The bay son of Awesome Again scored by 5 3/4 lengths while going 1 1/16 miles on Saturday.
The list of horses who are slated to make their first Triple Crown start in the Belmont Stakes also includes Atigun, winner of a Churchill Downs optional claimer on May 5; Five Sixteen, fourth in an Aqueduct allowance on April 18; Guyana Star Dweej, runner-up in a Belmont optional claimer on April 27; stakes winner Street Life, third in the Peter Pan; and Unstoppable U, who is unbeaten and untested in two starts in New York.