McPeek's Late Developing Sarava Preps for Belmont Stakes

Edited release from Churchill Downs
New Phoenix Stable's Sarava, winner of Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico, breezed four furlongs in :49.20 for trainer Ken McPeek. Jockey Patricia Cooksey was in the saddle for the work by the son of Wild Again, who will make his fourth start for McPeek in the Belmont Stakes.

"He's doing good," said McPeek. "I got him :25-and-four the first quarter and he went :49-and-one, so he came home in :23-and-two. This horse has got a big finish to him. He can run late and hopefully the pace works for us up there. You can't control that, but I know he'll get the distance."

Sarava was scheduled to leave Churchill Downs at noon (EDT) for a flight to New York, which would make him the earliest of the Kentucky-based Belmont Stakes contenders to arrive at Belmont Park. McPeek said an earlier experience in the Belmont convinced him that it is best to give a Churchill Downs-based horse a few days to acclimate to the Belmont Park racing strip.

"When I ran Pineaff in the Belmont, this time of the week before the Belmont the track was really fast," McPeek said. "Then they had a really dry spell and it didn't rain through race day, and the track ended up really deep and slow. I think all of us that came out of here (Churchill Downs) had a hard time getting over it. I don't want to get in that position again. If it's tight and it's fast, it's not going to make any difference whether I come today or the day before the race, but if it's deep and slow I think we need to be over that track a little bit."

Exercise rider Hanne Jorgensen was scheduled to accompany Sarava to Belmont.

McPeek saddled the Kentucky Derby favorite in Harlan's Holiday and trained another major contender for the Visa Triple Crown races in Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Repent before that colt went to the sidelines. But McPeek said he is excited about the Belmont Stakes bid by the late-developing Sarava.

"He's a nice horse," said McPeek. "He's a horse that's kind of coming together late. He's been a bit of a surprise for everybody, but at the same time, he's very well bred. He's better-bred bottom line and top line than either Harlan's Holiday or Repent and I don't think there's any doubt he'll go a mile and a half. Maybe we can upset 'em."