ELMONT, N.Y. — During Wednesday's post-position draw, Bodemeister owner Ahmed Zayat told the audience that while he always thought his Grade I-winning colt was a nice horse, trainer Bob Baffert initially thought stablemate Paynter was the better of the two prospects.
While Baffert didn't exactly back up his owner's story Thursday, the Hall of Famer did say Paynter is the better suited of the two to handle Saturday's Belmont Stakes.
After putting in two brilliant runner-up efforts behind I'll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Bodemeister was given a break for the final leg of the Triple Crown. Though not as accomplished as his stablemate, Paynter will try to exact a little revenge on his behalf when Paynter starts in the 11/2-mile classic.
Where Bodemeister is a one-dimensional front-runner, Paynter is more versatile with his early speed. The son of Awesome Again will be in deep, having only a maiden and allowance win in four races, but he showed some promise when he ran fourth behind I'll Have Another in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby in his second career start.
"Bodemeister was like I'll Have Another's pace car," Baffert joked. "These are two different type of horses, but (Paynter) is getting better and better. I think the mile-and-a-half would suit him better than it would Bodemeister."
Security barn still causing issues
The first full day in the newly mandated security barn continued to spark some complaints from the connections of Belmont Stakes contenders Thursday.
All horses competing in the Belmont were required to move into the security barn by noon Wednesday. Though trainers coped with the traffic jam of horses streaming from Barn 2 when the majority of the contenders went out to train at 8:30 a.m., more than one took issue with some of the extreme protocols security attempted to enforce.
Michael Matz, trainer of Grade I winner Union Rags, and Doug O'Neill, who conditions Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another, were initially told they would not be permitted to cook their horses' oats. Since neither was about to risk changing their charges' diets days out from the race, security yielded on the matter.
"They knew the Belmont was on June 9 for a long time," Matz said. "I would just like some uniformity, whatever it is. They didn't have a problem in Kentucky, they didn't have a problem at the Preakness. Why is it a big problem here?"
My Adonis another Ruler On Ice?
My Adonis, a late addition to the Belmont Stakes field, isn't drawing much attention.
That doesn't bother trainer Kelly Breen or owner George Hall. They're used to the underdog role in this race.
Breen and Hall combined to win last year's Belmont with Ruler On Ice, who paid $51.50 to win.
My Adonis, announced as a Belmont starter Tuesday night, is 20-1 from post No. 12. He was on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Derby, but he didn't get in the race. Instead, Breen sent My Adonis to Pimlico to run a disappointing third in the Canonero II Stakes as the 1-5 favorite.
The Belmont appears to be a reach, but Hall said his colt belongs.
"Even though some of his races were disappointing, we think he's shown enough talent that we can make a case," Hall said. "Of course we have incredible memories of the Belmont, so just being in the paddock will be a privilege. But we wouldn't do it just for the sake of doing it if we didn't think we had a horse with enough class."