Belmont runners headed for rematches in Jim Dandy, Haskell and Travers

Belmont runners headed for rematches in Jim Dandy, Haskell and Travers

Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter will head back to California Monday morning with plans to return to New York this summer for Saratoga's Grade 1 Travers on August 25, trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday morning.

"He'll go back home, freshen up, and we'll look to bring him back somewhere on the East coast," Baffert explained. "Maybe the (Grade 2) Jim Dandy (on July 28 at Saratoga) -- we're shooting for the Travers with him. We have (Derby and Preakness runner-up) Bodemeister for the (Grade 1) Haskell (on July 29 at Monmouth Park)."

According to the Hall of Fame trainer, with the exception of a nick on his left hind leg, Paynter returned from his neck loss to Union Rags in good shape.

"He lost his left hind shoe in the race," Baffert said. "I don't know when it happened, but it must have been near the end."

Baffert indicated he, as well, emerged from the race in fairly good shape.

"Second is still sinking in," he said.

Trainer Ken McPeek was pleased with the performances of his two long-shot runners in Saturday's Belmont Stakes and already has begun plotting ambitious plans for them.

Unstoppable U made noise in the 1 1/2-mile race early before tiring to finish sixth while Atigun rallied from midpack to finish a close-up third, just 1 3/4 lengths behind Union Rags and Paynter.

At nearly 12-1 for Unstoppable U and 20-1 for Atigun, both outran their odds.

"Our horses came out of the race fine," McPeek said on Sunday. "We asked a lot out of Unstoppable U," who tracked the pace of Paynter for a mile in only the third start of his career. "He ran a great race. We'll look for a Grade 2 or Grade 3 for him, (or) possibly the Haskell."

According to McPeek, Atigun is headed for Saratoga this summer.

"Atigun came out fine, too," he said. "We'll probably go to the Jim Dandy and the ultimate goal will be the Travers."

Trainer Chad Brown reported Sunday morning that Street Life was drained but healthy following his fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

"He came out of the race in good shape," he said. "He's a little tired, but he looks sound. We're just going to regroup and think about our next spot with him."

Under jockey Jose Lezcano, Street Life raced at the back of the 11-horse field through moderate fractions set by the front-running Paynter, closing down the stretch on the far outside and was beaten 7 1/2 lengths.

"I was a little disappointed the horse didn't show a little more interest early and naturally lay closer," Brown admitted, "but he tends to be a lazy kind of horse. He just didn't have good position early, and then lacked the turn of foot to really make a serious impact on the top three finishers. All things considered, I thought the horse ran fairly well. He put his run in; it wasn't good enough."

Brown was complimentary of Belmont winner Union Rags, who rebounded from two tough-trip losses to rally along the rail and beat Paynter by a neck.
"It was an outstanding day of racing that Belmont Park put on, and I think the Belmont Stakes in particular was an outstanding race," he said. "Yeah, we lost a major player in I'll Have Another, and everyone was disappointed with that; however, I think the best horse won the race.

"Union Rags showed at two that he was one of the best horses in the crop, if not the best horse. I think he validated that again yesterday. I think he's going to be a force to be reckoned with the rest of the year. He's not a horse that I'd be looking to run against if I had the choice."

Looking ahead, Brown said he would consider the Jim Dandy for Street Life, who has two wins, a third and a fourth in six career races.
"I'm going to point him toward the Jim Dandy and just see what's happening," the trainer remarked. "I want to back him up in distance and hopefully get more pace to run into.

"He's got something to prove. He's been knocking on the door, but he needs to be a little faster to beat these horses. I'm going to give him the opportunity to continue to develop into the kind of horse that can make a stronger impact in these races. I think he still has a lot of upside, and I don't think we've seen the best of him yet."

Romans disappointed in Belmont favorite Dullahan's seventh-place run

Trainer Dale Romans expressed disappointment following Dullahan's seventh-place finish in Saturday's Belmont Stakes but said he is eagerly anticipating next year's Triple Crown series.

"I can't wait until next year," Romans said. "Hopefully, we'll have another one. Emotionally, the highs, the lows, the battles, but I want to do it every year."
Romans admitted he wrongfully expected Dullahan, who went off as the 5-2 favorite, to run a huge race in the Belmont.

"I'm usually not that wrong with them," the horseman admitted. "I'm wrong about a lot of things, but usually with the horses I'm not. You can know your horse is doing good, but there are so many other factors that play into a race, and if the other horses are doing well it's tough."

Dullahan, a two-time Grade 1 winner on Keeneland's synthetic Polytrack, is winless in five starts on dirt but was a fast-closing third in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Churchill Downs' conventional main track. Romans remains adamant that the Donegal Racing colorbearer is capable of winning big races on dirt.

"I don't think he was handling the track (in the Belmont Stakes); it was deep and cuppy," Romans declared. "I haven't given up on him being a dirt horse. I think he needs it a little tighter."

Romans suggested that Dullahan might have performed better if the Belmont main track was like it had been when the colt breezed four furlongs in :45 4/5 six days before the race.

"(The track)] was little tighter (last) Sunday," Romans explained. "We had that rain. I was hoping we'd get a little water on it yesterday. It would have helped us."
With Dullahan being a dual Grade 1 winner on Polytrack, Grade 2-placed on turf and classic-placed on dirt, Romans and Donegal have many options to choose from going forward with their Even the Score colt.

"I have no idea (what his next start might be)," Romans said. "We'll sit down and talk the next few days. We'll figure it out."

By any other standard, Romans had an excellent Saturday as he landed two stakes: Belmont's Grade 1 Just a Game with Tapitsfly, who shot to the early lead and turned back Winter Memories to prevail in stakes-record time, and Churchill Downs' Opening Verse with Guys Reward.

"Nobody was going to catch (Tapitsfly) the way she ran yesterday," Romans contended. "She came home in 22 and change. You gotta run awful fast to make up ground into that. This is a good mare, and she's getting better all the time. She loves to race and loves to run; it makes her better. She's one of those where the more you do the more she likes it."

Although Romans said one mile is probably Tapitsfly's optimum distance, he said the five-year-old daughter of Tapit will be pointed for the Grade 1, $600,000 Diana going 1 1/8 miles on July 28 at Saratoga.

"(The Diana is) something we'll think about," the trainer said. "I think she can stretch, but I do think a mile is the best distance for her. It depends on who is going to be there, but we'll point in that direction."


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