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Belmont Winner Arcangelo Is Rising Up

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Proper earlier than coach Jena Antonucci’s eyes, Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Arcangelo  is rising up.

The grey son of Arrogate  was napping in his stall on the morning of July 28, two days removed from his third work over the main track at Saratoga Race Course.

“He has just grown up so much,” Antonucci said, sitting at a picnic table near the barn on the Oklahoma Training Track. “He has gotten really professional and is very serious about his work, which is really cool to watch. He is more mature, more seasoned.”

There is still a lot of little boy in Arcangelo, who has only made five starts in his career; four of them in 2023.

In his early days, the horse would goof off, just like a kid would. Slowly, he has gotten over childish tendencies when he goes to work.

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“He used to bounce around, dance around, get on his hind legs and just be a colt,” Antonucci said. “He is figuring it all out now. You want to see good ones channel that for good. When you look at his expression when he is breezing he is focused but relaxed. It’s a shift where you watch him get it.”

Arcangelo, with jockey Javier Castellano on board, worked five furlongs in 1:01.23 on July 26.

Antonucci is going to train Arcangelo up to the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) at the Spa on Aug. 26.

Arcangelo’s work on July 26 was nine days after his prior Spa work; the work on July 17 was 12 days after his first one at Saratoga on July 5.

His next work could come on Aug. 5. Or not. 

“Depending on the weather,” Antonucci said. “We always leave ourselves a little bit of room so we don’t have to worry. It will be in the next 10ish (days). I am not being coy, it literally depends on the weather and track and everything else.”

The question that always comes continues to have no answer. When asked if Castellano—also the rider of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage , who is also being pointed to the Travers—has made a commitment yet, Antonucci said there was nothing to report.

“I am definitely not going to worry about it,” she said.

McPeek Getting Smile Happy Ready for Whitney

The top older horses from the barn of trainer Kenny McPeek are on the grounds at his private barn behind the Oklahoma Training Track after arriving from Kentucky on the night of July 27.

One of them, Smile Happy , will be running in the $1 million Whitney Stakes (G1) Aug. 5. The plan for the other, Rattle N Roll , is on hold. It all depends on what Smile Happy does at the Spa.

Smile Happy in the hands of his groom walks near the barn of trainer Kenny McPeek got his chance for some exercise at the Oklahoma Training Center for the first time since arriving from Kentucky and will make his next start in the Jim Dandy on Saturday at the Saratoga Race Course Friday July 28, 2023 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Photo  by Skip Dickstein
Photo: Skip Dickstein

Smile Happy walks near the barn of trainer Kenny McPeek at the Oklahoma Training Track

“Rattle N Roll will wait for either the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1, at Saratoga Sept. 2) or the Pacific Classic (G1, at Del Mar Sept. 2),” McPeek said outside his barn July 28. “It all depends on how Smile Happy runs. If Smile Happy runs really well (in the Whitney), he will come back to the Jockey Club Gold Cup. If he doesn’t, he might go to California and Rattle N Roll will run here (in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.)”

Both colts are 4-year-olds and both are owned by Lucky Seven Stable.

Smile Happy, wearing blinkers, went to the Oklahoma Training Track with exercise rider Joe Bealmear aboard July 28. Accompanied by a stable pony, Smile Happy had some gate schooling before some light galloping.

“He is not an easy horse to train,” McPeek said. “He tests us pretty regularly. He has what I call a classic alpha personality. He wants to do what he wants to do. Talent? He has a world of it. Think of an old school horse like John Henry. John Henry would train when he felt like training, and the older he got, the smarter he got at it. They had to work around his schedule, no the other way around. When it comes to his training regime, he decides more than we do sometimes. He’s a tricky horse to be around.”

Smile Happy, a son of Runhappy  , completed fifth within the Stephen Foster Stakes (G1) at Ellis Park in his last start. Rattle N Roll, by Connect, was second in the same race.

McPeek said that Brian Hernandez, who has ridden Smile Happy to two of his four career wins, will be in from Kentucky to ride the colt in the Whitney.

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