If fans were hoping to make book on a three-peat second-place run by Bodemeister in the 2012 Belmont Stakes, they will be disappointed. Trainer Bob Baffert sent the colt back to sunny California, but Zayat Stables' Belmont Park stall is not quite empty.
Baffert may saddle up Paynter, who has a record of 4-2-1-0, his last outing being a first-place finish in an allowance race in Pimlico. The 1 1/16th miler is not the longest the horse has run—he's run 1 1/8th mile as well, but if you match Paynter's time at Pimlico and I'll Have Another's Preakness run, Paynter has as good a shot at the Triple Crown hopeful as any other mount.
Alpha accepted an early invite to dabble in the pool and Dullahan arrived at Belmont Park Monday morning. Neither horse has been confirmed, though Alpha breezed five furlongs Sunday. Next week trainers will make the final decision as to whether or not their ponies will put up the entry fees in exchange for a stab at the August Belmont trophy.
Meanwhile, Michael Matz kept one of the Derby favorites, Union Rags, out of the Preakness after his disastrous run in Kentucky. Yet the colt remains a favorite with bettors at 6:1. Matz has chosen a new jockey, replacing Julien Leparoux with John Valazquez, winner of the Bill Shoemaker Award for top Breeders’ Cup performance by a jockey in 2004. What this means for Union Rags remains to be seen.
Of those who will fight to deny I'll Have Another and soon-to-be-suspended Doug O'Neill the Triple Crown, none have run 1 1/2 miles. Then again, neither has this Derby/Preakness champion.
The 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes is scheduled for June 9, 2012.