Paynter will be on or very close to the lead from the start and enters on the upswing for Bob Baffert. The Hall of Fame trainer has always been high on the $325,000 yearling purchase, but Paynter did not race until mid-February, winning his debut at Santa Anita. After two encouraging efforts against stakes rivals, the late-starting colt posted a confidence-building victory in his last effort, an allowance on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico, and received a whopping 107 Speed rating for the 5 3/4-length decision.
Paynter may continue to develop into a high-class performer and appears to be training well at Belmont Park in preparation, recording a seven-furlong workout last weekend. He looms as a threat to carry his speed a long way on the front end with further improvement, but a minor award is probably more realistic.
Union Rags entered 2012 as the early Kentucky Derby favorite, but never appeared comfortable finishing third in the Florida Derby two starts back and exited a troubled seventh in the Kentucky Derby, where he lost all chance at the start. The Michael Matz-trained colt likes Belmont Park, rolling to an impressive win in the Grade 1 Champagne last fall, but his Speed ratings are a little low compared to his main rivals Saturday. A top-three finish might be within his grasp, but Union Rags does not look sharp enough presently to offer a serious challenge.
Street Life will look to capitalize upon a solid effort over the track, offering an eye-catching stretch move to pass eight rivals when third in the Grade 2 Peter Pan May 12, but it’s difficult to envision his late-running theatrics proving successful in this difficult spot. The promising Chad Brown trainee is still an intriguing option for the bottom of the exotic wagers.
Optimizer joins I’ll Have Another as the only horses to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown, but he has his work cut out for him, finishing out of the money in seven of his last eight starts. A multiple Grade 2 runner-up, Optimizer did show signs of life when rallying belatedly for sixth in the Preakness and is well-suited for the 1 ½-mile distance with his pedigree. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him come running late for a small piece given his stellar connections, but the D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt is likely overmatched.
My Adonis flashed talent earlier in the year, but must rebound from a disappointing effort in a minor stakes at Pimlico.
The remaining Belmont contestants — Atigun, Five Sixteen, Guyana Star Dweej, Ravelo’s Boy and Unstoppable U — look too slow to factor in the outcome.
Everything is built around Dullahan; I will bet him to win and recommend exacta and trifecta wagers with him on top.
Enjoy the Belmont Stakes!
Horses in the Belmont Stakes on June 8 will face tighter security for the second straight year.