The son of Even the Score , trained by Dale Romans, had been the 5-1 second choice. Dullahan won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) prior to finishing third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). He is a half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who was third in the Belmont. Dullahan will be ridden from post position 5 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
“It’s devastating," Romans said in reaction to I'll Have Another's injury. "I really wanted him to compete. This was going to be a special race, one of the biggest races of our time. It’s just devastating.”
“We’re going to inherit the role as favorite, but I’d rather have him in there," Romans added. "I think we could have competed with him and it would have been a great race and great for the sport. It would have been something special to beat him.”
Union Rags is the new second choice at 3-1. A son of Dixie Union, the colt is trained by Michael Matz and owned by his breeder Phyllis Wyeth’s Chadds Ford Stable. His seventh-place Kentucky Derby finish was his only off-the-board performance in seven starts. Union Rags won the grade I Champagne Stakes impressively at Belmont Park last fall.
Matz, speaking by phone, said, "I feel sorry for the horse. It would have been nice to try to get the Triple Crown, that’s for sure.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, whose favored Bodemeister finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, will saddle the lightly raced but promising Paynter, the 7-2 third choice in the Belmont. The colt is owned by Ahmed Zayat, who also owns Bodemeister.
Street Life, most recently third with blinkers on in the grade II Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 12, is the fourth choice at 8-1. The son of Street Sense is trained by Chad Brown and has two victories in five starts, both coming over the inner dirt course at Aqueduct Racetrack. Street Life is owned by a Hidden Brook Farm partnership and Robert and Janice McNair’s Magnolia Racing Stable. Jose Lezcano will ride Street Life from the rail.
Also starting will be Optimizer, 15-1, who is trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time winner of the Belmont; My Adonis, 15-1, attempting to give owners George and Lori Hall and trainer Kelly Breen, who won last year’s race with Ruler On Ice, a Belmont repeat; and Atigun (15-1) and Unstoppable U (20-1) from the barn of trainer Ken McPeek, who in 2002 sent out 70-1 shot Sarava to win the Belmont.
Lukas lamented the loss of I'll Have Another to injury and recalled a similar experience with Timber Country, who he scratched from the 2005 Belmont.
“I feel bad for Doug (O’Neill), to get that close," Lukas said. "I had Timber Country, the favorite for the Belmont and scratched the night before. The assistant said Timber Country had a 105 temperature. I want to talk to (Doug).
"That’s the part of the game the public doesn’t understand. It’s not like you can do this thing and just run him another time. You only get one chance to do this. From the standpoint of a purist it’s a blow. It will be a very good race, anyhow.
“A.P. Indy came out of the (1992) Derby," Lukas added. "We’ve had it before. It’s not unprecedented. For Doug to get the horse this far, he’s had to practically live with him. It practically brings you to your knees. It’s humbling.”
Doodnauth Shivmangal, owner-trainer of Guyana Star Dweej, said, “If you have an ankle or a knee, you can try to work with it, but a tendon is a very, very serious issue in a racehorse. Every time they stretch that tendon, it gets worse and worse. It depends on where the tendon is. A tendon takes time, and the only thing that heals a tendon is time."