Thursday, 7 June 2012
: Trainer Ken McPeek will start two three-year-olds in the Belmont Stakes Saturday well aware that “anything can happen" in the third and final leg of the US Triple Crown.
| Kenny McPeek|
Photo by Racing and Sports
The 49-year-old conditioner is well qualified to make such a comment, having saddled 70-1 shot Sarava to win the 2002 Belmont Stakes when War Emblem was attempting to be the first colt since 1978 to win the Triple Crown.
Ridden by Edgar Prado, Sarava defeated eventual Travers Stakes winner Medaglia d'Oro by a half length with War Emblem finishing a troubled eighth.
On Saturday McPeek will attempt to derail I'll Have Another's Triple Crown bid with his two runners Atigun and Unstoppable U.
“Weird things happen in this race and you can't count anybody out,” McPeek said.
"We like the challenge of these types of races.”
Atigun is raced by Shortleaf Stable's John Ed Anthony, who was racing as Loblolly Stable in 1980 when he owned the Belmont winner Temperence Hill.
Atigun, purchased at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale for only $42,000, has won three of nine starts and earned a crack at the Belmont with a victory in an optional claiming race on the Kentucky Derby card at Churchill Downs on May 5.
“I think he will run all day and he has trained exceptionally well,” McPeek said.
“If I'll Have Another runs his race, I don't think anybody will beat him. But at the same time, he's been running hard and a lot can happen.”
McPeek was hedging June 5 on whether to declare Unstoppable U when the draw is made on June 6.
Owned by Susan McPeek's Magdalena Racing, he is undefeated in two impressive victories but McPeek says he is “unseasoned".
"He sometimes is reluctant to switch leads but he is an extremely talented horse. I do think he could be competitive if we choose to run him.
I'll Have Another will have an additional rival in the 144th running of the Belmont with the connections of last year's winner Ruler On Ice deciding to run My Adonis, most recently third in the Canonero II Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day on May 19.
My Adonis, trained by Kelly Breen, won the Jean Lafitte Stakes in 2011 and his other efforts include a second in the Gotham Stakes and a third in the Holy Bull Stakes this year. He has won two of his 10 career races earning $316,000.
His owners will be looking to become the first to register back-to-back triumphs in the Belmont Stakes since Riva Ridge and Secretariat won in 1972 and 1973 for Meadow Stable.
Ruler On Ice upset Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness winner Shackleford when he scored at odds of 24-1 in the Belmont Stakes.
The addition of My Adonis bring the prospective field for this year's Belmont to 12.