Ken McPeek said his pupils Unstoppable U and Atigun are better at this juncture than his 2002 Belmont Stakes winner Sarava who scored at odds of 70-1.
That’s good; they are going to have to be.
Owned by McPeek’s Magdalena Racing, Unstoppable U is undefeated, albeit having only raced two times. He easily defeated a maiden group at Aqueduct before handling allowance foes with an equal amount of ease at Belmont Park. Those races were at 6 and 8 furlongs, respectively. Both came in wire to wire fashion.
“Unstoppable U is not one dimensional,” said McPeek. “He is just a really talented horse that over powered two fields. He wont be sent to the lead by any way shape or form.”
Unstoppable U is by Exchange Rate and out of the Point Given mare Naseem. The sire has produced top route horses like Apple Blossom Handicap winner Ermine and Federicio Tesio champ Xchanger. The broodmare sire is responsible for stars like Haskell Invitational winner Coil and Santa Anita Handicap victor Misremembered.
Clearly, this is a colt with enough pedigree for the demanding mile and a half distance. However, with just two races and having been off since 4/27, does he have enough foundation to get the job done? Not just that, but is he good enough? Those are two questions that are difficult to answer.
Atigun is probably not as good as his stablemate, but could hold a better hand here given that he possesses a seasoning edge. He was last seen taking an allowance event against what looked like third string company on the Kentucky Derby under card. Before that, the closer was fifth in the Arkansas Derby.
It seems that McPeek has always had high hopes for him given the ambitious assignments the colt has had at 2 and 3. Since breaking his maiden in early November, he has faced and failed against graded company thrice while winning twice in allowance company.
Atigun is by the young stallion Istan and out of the Dynaformer mare Rimini Road. A son of the sire of sires Gone West, Istan also produced Triple Crown contender Mr Bowling this year. Broodmare sire Dynaformer was among the most prolific of his generation and will give this colt heaps of stamina.
Both of these colts have enough pedigree to get the Belmont Stakes distance.
“Stranger things have happened,” said McPeek. A milf and a half makes for a weird race.”
It certainly does. The Test of Champions has has a propensity for producing strange outcomes. The last four editions of the race have produced odd outcomes in the forms of 25-1 shot Ruler on Ice last year and 38-1 chance Da’ Tara in 2008.
In the last five Belmont Stakes where the Triple Crown was on the line, all but one was taken by a horse at odds of 25-1 or higher.
“Sometimes the favorite is doing bad in this race and if that happens hopefully we run well.” said McPeek.