01/24/2013 11:27PM

I'll Have Another - a photo album

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When I'll Have Another powered his way into the national spotlight at Churchill Downs May 5, 2012, he also powered his way into my - and countless other - hearts.  The Preakness cemented the deal.

Count me among those 'wowed' by the red-coated colt with the bright eyes and forward attitude.  Adding to his story were his ever-amiable trainer and sometimes-cranky superstar stable pony. 

Photographers are not always treated with respect and, no doubt, some trainers just consider us a necessary evil. Yet if Doug O'Neill felt that way last spring, he never showed it.  He went above-and-beyond, being kind to those who reached out to him and trying to accommodate each request.

As a result, we were able to fully record I'll Have Another's historic run.  That fate would not allow I'll Have Another a chance at the last jewel of the Triple Crown was a frustrating footnote, to be certain - but, when he shone, no one was brighter.  

I've kept hundreds of IHA photos on my computer since June, meaning to do a blog so some of our Team DRF photos could be seen and to thank the members of Team O'Neill for their kindness.  There is finally great incentive to post them: last Saturday, I'll Have Another was crowned the champion 3-year-old.  A heartfelt congratulations to his connections.

Above:  The first time I photographed I'll Have Another and Lava Man together was April 29 - the first morning they stepped out at Churchill Downs.  Jonny Garcia was aboard I'll Have Another and Sabas Rivera rode Lava Man.

Above:  Galloping his first morning there....

....and his second (above)....

...and looking good his third morning (above).

Above:  Stepping out May 3.

Above:  I'll Have Another, Mario Gutierrez up, and Lava Man, in the Kentucky Derby post parade.

Above/below:  The first time past the stands, I'll Have Another was in the third tier.  Bodemeister (rail) and Trinniberg led the parade.  Champion 2-year-old Hansen, light grey, was flanked by Gemologist and Daddy Long Legs.

Above/below:  I'll Have Another (purple silks).

Above:  One Team DRF shooter, Emily Shields, was an I'll Have Another fan from the get-go.  She keyed in on him as he rounded the first turn.

Above:  Heading down the homestretch, I'll Have Another as he approached front-running Bodemeister.

Above/below:  I'll Have Another wins the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Above:  Dennis O'Neill.

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Mario is overcome (above) and, below, he is all smiles.

 

Above:  After the winner's circle celebration, I'll Have Another was cooled down by friends. 

Above:  The morning after, the handsome colt was the talk of the town.  

Above/below:  Doug O'Neill and Sabas Rivera visiting with their Derby winner Sunday morning.  

Above/below:  Once settled in at Pimlico, I'll Have Another looked grand...and raring to go.

Above:  Boing!

Above/below:  Looking ready the morning before the Preakness.

Above:  Portrait of a classic winner.

Above/below:  Buddies..sort of...  I'll Have Another and Lava Man.

Above:  Bath time was circus time at Pimlico.

Above:  Owner Paul Reddam and his wife Zillah were barely visible, at left, as they admired their Derby winner.

Above/below:  Doug O'Neill, too, watched I'll Have Another's bath...and snapped a shot or two.

Above:  Preakness day at Pimlico.  Below, I'll Have Another before the race.

Above:  I'll Have Another and Lava Man in the post parade.

Above:  Bodemeister set the early pace in the Preakness, as I'll Have Another settled in behind him.

Above:  Heading for home, Bodemeister was still in the lead, but I'll Have Another loomed on the  left.

Above/below:  I'll Have Another drove past a game Bodemeister to add the Preakness to his resume.

Above:  Jack Sisterson and Benjamin Perez.

Above:  Larry 'Thumper' Jones, his wife Laurie, and Tyler Cerin.

Above:  Donna Barton interviews Mario on their way back to the winner's circle.

Above:  Mario received congratulations from Paul and Zillah Reddam....

..and a high-five from the outrider (above).

Above:  Mario Gutierrez headed into the winner's circle.

Above:  Inocencio and Doug.

Above:  The traditional painting of the Preakness weathervane.

Above:  After the race, back at the barn, the Reddams accommodated the media.

Above:  The next morning, I'll Have Another was a bit tired...or maybe a bit bored with the surrounding hubbub.

Above:  Something interesting!  Doug!

Above:  "Aw, shucks, Doug....stop embarrassing me!"

Above:  "Oh, phew...I can chew on my buddy Inocencio."

Above:  Team O'Neill at Pimlico the morning after the Preakness.  

Above/below:  Dual classic winner I'll Have Another leaves Pimlico to head to Belmont Park.

Above:  I'll Have Another training at Belmont Park, a.k.a. Big Sandy.

Above/below:  Cranky Lava Man with I'll Have Another, who almost always looked surprised by that crankiness.

Above/below:  Each morning, just after they'd step on-track, Lava Man would school his young friend.  It seemed funnier to me every day.

Above:  I'll Have Another June 6...gotta love that odd cloud.

Above/below:  Paddock-schooling. 

Above:  Team O'Neill members Inocencio Diaz, Beto Gomez, Benjamin Perez and Jonny Garcia.

 

Above:  A near-collision between a loose horse, Isleta, and I'll Have Another on May 31 prompted a change in morning routines...

Above:  ...and a special window of time was allotted for Belmont trainees only.  Here, I'll Have Another gallops past the throng of media members as Atigun stands out.

Above/below:  I'll Have Another looking good on Thu.

Above:  Regular press conferences became part of Doug's morning routine.

Above/below:  Moving to the official Belmont Stakes' barn and, below, security going through an O'Neill wheelbarrow.

Above:  One odd side effect of the Belmont Stakes' contender barn, with a special time reserved for training, was that many Belmont horses received baths at the same time - in the one yard.  Here, Atigun and Unstoppable U are in the foreground while I'll Have Another is on the grass in the background.

Above/below:  "I'm so pretty!"  During his down time, $5+-million earner Lava Man spent time out grazing - and, uh, admiring himself in the reflection?

Above/below:  It's Lava Man time!

Above:  Sabas apparently has the ability to make Lava Man levitate.

Above:  But the mood was much more subdued Friday morning.  Here, I'll Have Another is hosed at 6:30 a.m., after a gallop.

Above/below:  By early afternoon, this was the scene at the barn when - in a shocker - I'll Have Another's retirement was announced.


Above/below:  The newly retired I'll Have Another with Team O'Neill, still politely posing.  Shortly thereafter, I'll Have Another headed back to his regular barn (Mark Hennig's).

Above:  On Belmont Stakes' day, some fans weren't ready to give up on the dream of what might have been.

Above:  In one more sporting gesture, Team O'Neill, headed by Sabas on Lava Man, agreed to visit the paddock and winner's circle on Belmont day.  Because our shooter Emily Shields had flown from CA just to root her boy I'll Have Another to victory, she got paddock duty for this special moment.  Great job, Emily....

Above:  Marco Carrillo, Jonny Garcia, Beto Gomez, Davey Meah, Jack Sisterson and Tyler Cerin follow I'll Have Another around the  paddock.

Above:  Inocencio Diaz and Benjamin Perez lead I'll Have Another.

Above:  Mario Gutierrez hopped aboard I'll Have Another in the winner's circle.  Team O'Neill gave a 'tip of the hat' to their home track by donning yellow Santa Anita caps.

Above/below:  Mario Gutierrez kindly acknowledged the crowd....

Above/below:  ...Doug O'Neill removed I'll Have Another's saddle....

Above:  ...and, just like that, the whirlwind was over.  I'll Have Another was led from the winner's circle and headed back to his barn. Shortly thereafter, Union Rags won the Belmont Stakes - in dramatic fashion - over Paynter.

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With thanks to Team DRF shooters/assistants Michael Amoruso, Justin N. Lane, John Bambury, Jenny Burgos, Emily Shields, Audrey C. Crosby, Kim Pratt, Debra A. Roma, Alysse Jacobs and Tom Keyser for their excellent photography - and thanks to Kelly Weitsma for her help with Lava Man.