Updated on 06/06/2012 8:22AM

Belmont 2012: I'll Have Another's camp calm

Barbara D. Livingston
Benjamin Perez, foreman for trainer Doug O’Neill, walks I’ll Have Another on Tuesday.

ELMONT, N.Y. - A little more than an hour after I'll Have Another completed his usual morning gallop Tuesday at Belmont Park, he was safely tucked away in his stall in Barn 9, groom Inosencio Diaz standing alongside him. Doug O'Neill, the trainer of I'll Have Another, had earlier that morning decided to delay by 24 hours I'll Have Another's relocation to the detention barn in which all the horses in Saturday's Belmont Stakes needed to be moved by Wednesday. As someone who is closer to I'll Have Another than anyone else, Diaz thought I'll Have Another would be just fine.

[BELMONT STAKES: Video updates, expected field, early odds]

"Everything is relaxed, not crazy," said Diaz, who has worked for O'Neill for nine years. "All the time, he's not nervous, nothing. He's never crazy, takes a siesta."
No one has been caught snoozing around I'll Have Another as he prepares for the 144th Belmont Stakes, and a bid for the Triple Crown. O'Neill likes to refer to the team he has around I'll Have Another, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but it's more like a small army. Paul Reddam, the owner of I'll Have Another, rented a house in nearby Old Westbury where 10 members of O'Neill's staff are making do in sweet digs that have a swimming pool and a hot tub.

[I’LL HAVE ANOTHER: Derby, Preakness winner runs for Triple Crown]

People like O'Neill, assistant Jack Sisterson, chiropractor Larry "Thumper" Jones, and exercise rider Johnny Garcia may have become better known during this Triple Crown odyssey, but there's a large entourage with I'll Have Another that also includes people like Diaz, and Benjamin Perez, O'Neill's foreman.

Both Diaz and Perez are natives of Mexico who have worked in racing for more than two decades. Diaz, 47, is the more outgoing of the two. His first job in racing was with the since-retired Gary Jones, for years one of California's elite trainers. He also worked for Eduardo Inda, for whom Diaz was the groom of Riboletta, the Eclipse Award-winning older female of 2000. He has been with O'Neill for nine years.

Perez, 37, has worked over the years for trainers such as Walter Greenman, Alex Hassinger Jr., Wally Dollase, and John Shirreffs, many through his previous association with the late Prince Ahmed bin Salman's The Thoroughbred Corp., which campaigned 2001 Belmont winner Point Given. He has been with O'Neill for five years. Most mornings, it is Perez who walks I'll Have Another around the shed row before and after his training.

All those who work with I'll Have Another describe him as a fairly straightforward horse to train, absent bad habits, but definitely territorial.

"He's a man. There's no doubt about it," said Steve Rothblum, 60, a former trainer who now works as a bloodstock adviser to numerous owners who have horses with O'Neill.
"If you go in his stall, he'll nip and bite at you. He'll let you know you're in his room," O'Neill said. "But he's not a mean horse at all."

One of the things that O'Neill believes sets I'll Have Another apart is his ability to rebound from his races and retain his enthusiasm for training.

Tuesday morning, O'Neill thought I'll Have Another had another good gallop.

"Good stride, good energy," O'Neill said.

I'll Have Another is neither too large nor too small. O'Neill estimates he weighs about 1,100 pounds, but he has never put him on a scale.

"He's average-size, but he's powerful," O'Neill said. "Most horses lose about 25 pounds after a hard race, but he bounces back. There's been lots of travel -- on and off vans, on and off planes. It takes a special horse to handle all that."

I'll Have Another was going to be on the move again on Wednesday, when he was to be sent to the mandatory detention facility, Barn 2. O'Neill originally wanted to move on Monday, but the barn was not set up - it needed to be disinfected. O'Neill had a media luncheon in Manhattan on Tuesday hosted by the New York Racing Association, and since he wanted to be here for the move to the detention barn, he decided to wait another 24 hours to move I'll Have Another.

O'Neill said that Lava Man, the former racehorse who is I'll Have Another's pony, would not go to the new barn.

"Everything's a little tight in there. He'd lose his mind," O'Neill said. "It's too nerve-wracking for him. I don't need I'll Have Another wondering what's going on with big brother."

Lava Man, though, will still accompany I'll Have Another during his training sessions on the racetrack on Thursday and Friday.

"They get along so good on the track," O'Neill said.

My Adonis added to field

My Adonis on Tuesday was added to the Belmont field by owners George and Lori Hall and trainer Kelly Breen, bringing the number of likely entrants to 12. Ramon Dominguez will ride. The Halls and Breen won the race last year with Ruler On Ice. My Adonis was third in the Canonero  II Stakes at Pimlico on May 5 in his last start.

In other Belmont developments:

Ravelo's Boy arrived on Tuesday morning following a van ride from Calder Race Course in Florida. He immediately went to the detention barn.

Dullahan had an eye-catching gallop that caught O'Neill's eye as he went by during the brief morning session set aside for Belmont Stakes horses. "He's training great, that horse," O'Neill said.