One of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another's biggest challengers in the June 9 Belmont Stakes, Union Rags, continued his preparations for the "Test of the Champion" when turning in a five-furlong breeze at Fair Hill Training Center on Thursday in 1:01. The move pleased trainer Michael Matz.
"I was looking for him to go in 1:01," Matz said. "He went nicely. We're happy with him, and he'll have one more work next week."
Exercise rider Peter Brette was at the helm on Thursday, with jockey John Velazquez possible to be aboard Union Rags for his final breeze before the Belmont Stakes, Matz said.
The Belmont will be Union Rags' first race with Velazquez in the saddle as he'll replace Julien Leparoux, who rode Union Rags to a victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, a third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and a seventh in the Kentucky Derby.
Union Rags has experience over Big Sandy as the son of Dixie Union captured the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes last season by 5 1/4 lengths.
Korina Stable's Ravelo's Boy sizzled a half-mile in :46 3/5 over a wet-fast track at Calder Thursday morning as the son of Lawyer Ron points for a possible start in the Belmont.
"The Belmont is an option," trainer Manny Azpurua admitted on Thursday. "But we're not ready to say for sure that's where we are running. So far he's doing everything right, and he just flew over the track this morning."
The work, which was two seconds faster than any Thursday Calder move at the distance, was the second published workout in five days for Ravelo's Boy. The colt's Belmont audition will continue in three days when he is scheduled to visit the Calder main track yet again.
"We won't make any official decision until after Sunday," Azpurua said. "(Jockey Alex) Solis is coming down to get on him. They'll go to the track about 7:30 a.m. (EDT) and after that we'll have a better idea where we are going. If it is the Belmont, we'll probably just gallop him up to the race."
Ravelo's Boy hasn't started since a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10.
"He had some problems after the Tampa race," Azpurua explained. "Nothing too bad, but he needed some time off. And that time off has been good for him."
Ravelo's Boy will be seeking his first stakes win if he goes in the Belmont. The chestnut colt made his black-type debut last July in a listed stakes at Calder, where he ran sixth, and didn't face stakes company again until starting in the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year's Day, where he finished fifth. The sophomore was fourth by only 1 1/4 lengths in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes prior to the Tampa Bay Derby.
Five Sixteen, considered likely for the Belmont, also took to the track to ready for the third jewel of the Triple Crown. The Invasor colt, who would be making his stakes bow in the Belmont, covered five furlongs over Big Sandy's good main track in 1:00 4/5 Thursday.
With Mark Valeski highly doubtful for the Belmont, jockey Rosie Napravnik has picked up the mount on Five Sixteen, who was last seen running fourth in an allowance at Aqueduct on April 18.