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McPeek Pleased With Belmont Runners

31 January 2009: Trainer Ken McPeek at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida.

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 it.”


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.” 




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Unstoppable U I see him taking it by a long shot

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