Ken McPeek was happy with the way both Atigun and Unstoppable U galloped two days before the Belmont Stakes,
admitting that he wasn't looking for a lot from either of them.
“Just basic stuff,” he said. “Nothing
complicated. Just nice, steady gallops. They're both extremely strong.
“Atigun is doing good,” he added.
“He had a real strong gallop today.”
Though McPeek had expressed doubt earlier
this week about running Unstoppable U on Saturday, the horse's recent form has
him feeling more confident.
“The horse is a monster,” he
said. “He's never been outworked in the morning or the afternoon.”
Unstoppable U's reluctance to change
leads had given McPeek pause, but the trainer said the gray son of Exchange
Rate is finally learning his lesson.
“Two works ago, he was really
unprofessional,” he said. “He worked from the five-eighths pole all
the way to the wire on the left lead and still went :59. So the talent’s
there, but he hasn't figured out, ‘OK, I need to change to my right lead
when we turn for home,’ and we work really hard trying to get him to do
Changing leads has been the focus of the
horse's works since then.
“I wasn’t so worried about ‘fast,’
I was worried about professional,” said McPeek. “I actually told
Junior Alvarado, ‘I'm more worried about your switching to the right lead
when you turn the corner than I am with how fast you go.’ You’ve got
to get the repetition down because I don’t think you can win this race if
you don't hit on all cues.”
Though McPeek acknowledges that both of
his horses are placed ambitiously, he does say Unstoppable U's familiarity with
Belmont Park is a big advantage.
“He's trained here his whole
career, and that's a big edge,” he said. “You have to train over
this track to win over this track. It's nicknamed ‘Big Sandy’ for a
reason, and if we don't get any rain between now and Saturday, I think it's
going to give an edge to horses who have been here.”
He’s also comfortable with his
horses’ roles as longshots. Referring to John Ed Anthony, whose Shortleaf
Stable owns Atigun, he said, "Mr. Anthony won this race [in the name of
Loblolly Stable] with Temperence Hill at 50-1, and I won it with Sarava at
70-1, so we’re familiar with being the underdog.”