USA: Velazquez takes over on Union Rags in Belmont

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By Nicholas Godfrey
Racing Post

Union Rags and jockey Javier Castellano win the Gr I Champagne at Belmont Park 10/8/11

USA: Julien Leparoux has been jocked off Union Rags, likely to be the main rival to Triple Crown chaser I’ll Have Another in the Belmont Stakes, where his rider will be John Velazquez.

Kentucky Derby third Dullahan will also have a new jockey in the New York Classic on June 9 after Javier Castellano was booked to replace Kent Desormeaux following his positive alcohol test last weekend.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Union Rags has not enjoyed a straightforward passage on both his last two starts under Leparoux, who partnered him to finish third in the Florida Derby and then seventh at Churchill Downs, where he was slowly away.

“We felt we had to make a change,” said trainer Michael Matz, speaking to the Daily Racing Form. “He doesn’t look like he’s difficult to ride. He does have a big, long stride, and you need to let him use that stride.”

Desormeaux failed abreathalyzer test at Belmont on May 18 and lost the ride on Tiger Walk in the Preakness as a result. Now it has also cost him the mount on the Dale Romans-trained Dullahan.

I’ll Have Another, bidding to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, was reportedly a “very hapy horse” as he settled into his new surroundings at Belmont Park on Tuesday.

Godolphin’s Alpha, down the field in the Kentucky Derby, pleased connections in his most recent workout and may return to action in the Belmont.

Kenny McPeek, who saddled longshot Sarava to derail War Emblem’s Belmont bid in 2002, has confirmed Arkansas Derby fifth Atigun as an intended runner.

The lightlyraced Unstoppable U, easy winner of both starts to date, is also being considered for the Classic, as is Peter Pan Stakes third Street Life.

On the other hand, Peter Pan winner Mark Valeski is a doubtful runner in the Belmont.

View the original article at the Racing Post

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