Editor's note: Following the stunning upset by Sarava in the Belmont Stakes, bloodhorse.com is reprinting Steve Haskin's story about the winner that was posted after a workout at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Kenny McPeek said Tuesday he will work Sir Barton winner Sarava tomorrow morning, then ship the colt to Belmont Park. Also on Tuesday, Paraneck Stable's Artax Too, winner of his last two starts, worked a sharp seven furlongs in 1:24 4/5 at Aqueduct, putting himself in the Belmont Stakes picture.
McPeek said he decided to ship Sarava to Belmont early after learning his lesson in 1999, when he shipped Pineaff in three days before the race, only to have the colt flounder over the "deep and cuppy" track.
"I brought Pineaff in on too short a notice, and he didn't handle the track at all," McPeek said. "I'm not going to make the same mistake again. This time, I want to get a sharp half-mile breeze in my horse and give him some miles over the surface. If it gives me an edge, that's fine. If not, I'm not going to have any regrets.
"I've got a good solid horse with a great, long stride who's coming to hand at the right time. And he'll run all day. He has to improve five or six lengths off his last start, and if he does, he'll be right the thick of things. I think War Emblem is beatable this time. I don't think his last race was as impressive, and they say don't bet a horse when his numbers are going down. He's coming off 112, 114, and 109 Beyer figures, and it's tough to put together four of those kind of numbers in a row. My owner is game to go, I have no pressure, and it's going to be fun."
McPeek said he plans on arriving Monday evening and will supervise Sarava's work on Tuesday.
Joe Aquilino, trainer of Artax Too, said the colt is being considered for the Belmont following today's work. "He worked very well, so I guess Ernie (owner Paragallo) is looking at the Belmont," Aquilino said. Artax Too, a son of Marquetry, is coming off a 3 1/2-length maiden victory at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct and a one-mile allowance score at Belmont, in which he opened a clear lead, then just held on to win by a head.
Columbine Stable's Like A Hero, winner of three of four career starts, including a victory in the recent Alydar Stakes at Hollywood, will definitely run in the Belmont, trainer Beau Greeley said Tuesday.
"I'm sending a foreman and an exercise rider with him," Greeley said. "I'll probably fly in over the weekend. We haven't tried the grade 1 horses with him yet, but I think he's ready for the test. He's learning to put horses away. It's a sign he's getting better. He's starting to realize what racing is about."
In other Belmont news, War Emblem galloped his usual mile and a half this morning, as he readies for his much-anticipated work tomorrow. "I haven't decided how far he's going to go," trainer Bob Baffert said. "We'll see what condition the track is in. He's been behaving himself, and he's so much more relaxed than he was before the (Kentucky) Derby."
Edward McGrath's Tracemark, winner of the California Derby at Bay Meadows and second in the Lone Star Derby in his last start, galloped this morning at Hollywood Park. Trainer Craig Dollase, still on cloud nine following Swept Overboard's brilliant victory in Monday's Met Mile, said he's still considering the Belmont Stakes for the son of Conquistador Cielo.
"We're going to breeze him Saturday or Sunday and that'll be the deciding factor on whether we're coming," Dollase said. "He's really improved a lot since I got him earlier this winter. It may be worth taking a shot in there."