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Atigun, Unstoppable U Gallop for McPeek

Belmont Stakes 2012 logo.
Photo: Kevin Creative (Kevin House)

Trainer Ken McPeek spoke highly of the 1 ½-mile Tuesday gallops of Atigun and Unstoppable U as they train for their attempt to emulate Sarava, McPeek’s protégé who ended War Emblem’s Triple Crown bid with a 70-1 upset in the 2002 Belmont Stakes. McPeek called the gallops “Sarava gallops,” having used the same routine with Sarava prior to his Belmont upset.

“We do that with all of our young horses,” said McPeek. “We start that routine early in their career where they need to understand at what point to start their work and at what point to finish it. I think repetition is a good idea.”

McPeek said he is leaning toward running Magdalena Racing and Mojallali Stables’ Unstoppable U in the Belmont, but he did note the undefeated Exchange Rate colt did a much better job changing leads in Tuesday’s gallop than he did in Sunday’s breeze. The trainer said he’ll wait until Wednesday, the day entries are taken for the Belmont, to make a final decision.

“[Exercise rider] Rafael Penna has done a great job [with Unstoppable U],” said McPeek. “The horse switches on cue for Rafael. Rafael, unfortunately, is almost 60, so he can’t ride on Saturday. Rafael knows how to get him to switch. He has his number. I don’t know why Junior Alvarado has had a little trouble getting him to switch leads. In his first race he didn’t switch, and in his second race he was late. In workouts, he didn’t switch at all in the first one and in the second one he was late again. If he’s going to win this race, he’s got to hit on cue.”

Atigun, owned by Shortleaf Stable, is confirmed for the Belmont Stakes, McPeek said.



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