06/06/2012 3:56PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: I'll Have Another has 11 to beat

Tom Keyser
I'll Have Another and his team walk to the Belmont stakes barn on Wednesday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – When War Admiral won the Triple Crown in 1937, there were a total of 32 horses who ran against him in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. That remains a record, one I’ll Have Another will have to better if he is to become the 12th Triple Crown winner when he competes in the 144th Belmont Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park.

A total of 12 horses were entered on Wednesday in the Belmont, meaning I’ll Have Another will have to turn back 11 challengers, some familiar, some new. I’ll Have Another beat 19 horses in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, and 10 horses in the Preakness on May 19. So if he wins the Belmont, he will have vanquished a record 40 rivals.

“I’ll Have Another is the real deal,” said owner Ahmed Zayat, who will be represented by Paynter in the Belmont after finishing second to I’ll Have Another in the Derby and Preakness with another Bob Baffert-trained colt, Bodemeister. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He ran a spectacular Derby. He ran a spectacular Preakness. But the Belmont is the ‘Test of the Champion,’ and it’s horse racing – once the gate opens, anything can happen.”

I’ll Have Another drew post 11 in the field of 12 for the Belmont when posts were drawn on Wednesday at Belmont Park. The only late addition was My Adonis, whom trainer Kelly Breen on Tuesday night confirmed as a starter. Breen and the owners of My Adonis, George and Lori Hall, won the Belmont last year with Ruler on Ice. Ramon Dominguez rides My Adonis.

I’ll Have Another is the 3-5 favorite on the line of Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper. Eric Donovan, who makes the morning line at Belmont Park, has I’ll Have Another at 4-5.

Both Watchmaker and Donovan have Dullahan the second choice at 5-1, and Union Rags the third choice at 6-1. Paynter is the fourth choice of both men – Watchmaker has him at 12-1, Donovan at 8-1.

[BELMONT STAKES: Past performances, video updates, contender profiles, odds]

The Belmont, at 1 1/2 miles, is one lap around this spacious track. Affirmed was the last horse to win the Triple Crown, in 1978. Since then, 11 horses have won the Derby and Preakness but failed in the Belmont, the most recent being Big Brown in 2008.

D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Belmont four times and had one of those Triple Crown misses with Charismatic in the 1999 Belmont, thinks sweeping the series is far more difficult than it was decades ago.

“Before, you didn’t have to worry about earnings to get into the Derby. Now there’s a 20-horse field in the Derby,” Lukas said. “These races are hard on horses. You used to have smaller fields in the Preakness. Doing this is a lot tougher than it used to be.”

Still, Lukas said he thinks I’ll Have Another is “the horse to beat.”

“He showed he can beat these horses,” Lukas said. “If he does it going a mile and half, he’s in the record books.”

Lukas trains Optimizer, the only horse other than I’ll Have Another who will run in all three Triple Crown races this year. Optimizer was 11th in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness.

Dullahan, who was third in the Derby, and Union Rags, who was seventh, both skipped the Preakness to await the Belmont.

All the other horses in the Belmont – Atigun, Five Sixteen, Guyana Star Dweej, My Adonis, Paynter, Ravelo’s Boy, Street Life, and Unstoppable U – did not run in either the Derby or Preakness.

Paynter has run against I’ll Have Another once previously. He was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, only 3 3/4 lengths behind I’ll Have Another, in only his second start. Since then, he was second in the Derby Trial, then won an allowance race on the Preakness undercard.

“He has a great mind, but he lacks experience, with four starts,” Zayat said. “He’s as fast as the Derby winner. He has the stamina. The question is – does he have the experience?”

Zayat is seemingly overdue for a Triple Crown race win. He has been second in the Derby three times in the last four years, with Bodemeister, Nehro, and Pioneerofthe Nile. The only time he missed being second in the Derby in that timespan was in 2010, when he had the Derby favorite, Eskendereya, who was withdrawn from the Derby one week before the race and subsequently retired. Zayat also finished second in the Preakness with Bodemeister. But he has a Zen-like philosophy over his close calls.

“I’m not disappointed. I’m 49 years old. I’m hoping I have time on my side,” Zayat said. “I’ve been in the business 5 1/2 years. To have three seconds in the Derby, and the prohibitive favorite one year who was scratched, I have to look at the totality. I’m hoping the game is not over for us.

“I could say, ‘I haven’t won it,’ and be disappointed. But you can look at the glass half-empty or half-full, and I always look at it half-full. I’m optimistic by nature.”

Zayat and Jerry Crawford, the head of the Donegal Racing partnership that owns Dullahan, both have expressed great respect for what I’ll Have Another has accomplished, but think their horses deserve a chance to stop his Triple Crown bid.

“I don’t think I’ll Have Another, as much attention as he’s received, has gotten as much credit as he deserves,” Crawford said. “We’ll do everything we can to keep him from being a Triple Crown winner. If he gets it done, he’s a worthy Triple Crown winner, and he’ll have exceeded all possible expectations.”

Wednesday was moving day for the Belmont horses. Union Rags arrived from the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, while My Adonis came over from Monmouth Park. Both headed straight to the mandatory detention barn that has been put in place just for the Belmont, where Ravelo’s Boy had been since Tuesday, and where the Belmont horses stabled at Belmont Park, including I’ll Have Another, relocated on Wednesday.

I’ll Have Another originally was assigned to stall 12A, between 12 and 14, but he was able to move to stall 12 when stable pony Lava Man was not moved to the detention barn.

“I’m not superstitious, but I don’t want 12A,” said Doug O’Neill, the trainer of I’ll Have Another, saying as far as he’s concerned, 12A is basically 13.

Except for going to and from the track to train on Thursday and Friday, the Belmont Stakes horses must remain in the detention barn until the race, the 11th on a 13-race card on Saturday. Post time for the Belmont is 6:40 p.m. Eastern. The first race is at 11:35 a.m.

The Belmont will be televised live by NBC beginning at 4:30 p.m.

It was a cool, cloudy day at Belmont on Wednesday, with a high of 70 degrees. According to The Weather Channel, the forecast for Saturday is for a high of 79 degrees, partly cloudy, with a 20-percent chance of rain.

2012 Belmont Stakes Field








Street Life

C. Brown

J. Lezcano




Unstoppable U

K. McPeek

J. Alvarado




Union Rags

M. Matz

J. Velazquez





K. McPeek

J. Leparoux





D. Romans

J. Castellano




Ravelo's Boy

M. Azpurua

A. Solis




Five Sixteen

D. Schettino

R. Napravnik




Guyana Star Dweej

D. Shivmangal

K. Desormeaux





B. Baffert

M. Smith





D. Lukas

C. Nakatani




I'll Have Another

D. O'Neill

M. Gutierrez




My Adonis

K. Breen

R. Dominguez



Television: NBC, 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.; NBC Sports Network, 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

ART VANDALAY More than 1 year ago
i,h.a. is the best of a mediocer crop.fact. the lasix years are ruining the game...compare the 70`s horses with the last 20 years...yeah...oh... they DID have a very strict drug policy back then...bute wasn`t allowed on race day...very few horses bleed.fact..why so much lasix ???? hmmmmm.
Ron Gillaspie More than 1 year ago
Belmont Stakes Preview!!!!! Unstoppable U and Ravelo's Boy will both go for the early lead with Paynter not far off. Smith will rate Paynter but it won't last long. Union Rags will be just off of Paynter on the inside. This will prompt Paynter to go on with it and pass the other two. Union Rags will switch to the outside and come up alongside Paynter to force the issue. Others are coming now which include I'll Have Another and Dullahan. Not far off of them will be Optimizer. Halfway down the stretch, Union Rags will take a determined lead and nothing has ever caught Rags when he has obtained the lead. Paynter is determined also and Baffert can train circles around O'Neil. I'll Have Another is still driving in 3rd with Dullahan and Optimizer is catching his best stride. At the wire, you have Union Rags in front by 2, Paynter is 2nd by another length and Optimizer finally getting the best of Dullahan and I'll Have Another. The finish is 3-9-10-5 11
Kathleen More than 1 year ago
What is the best place to learn about betting on the ponies?
Perl More than 1 year ago
Purchase Beyer's book "Beyer On Speed." Steve Crist has some good stuff, as does Dave Litfin.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Go to a race track . Talk to any trainer and ask for about getting you inside the stable area . Do this for a length of time . Let them get to know you . And just LISTEN ! A Blacksmith - will give you the Best advice .
mrm More than 1 year ago
The school of hard knocks a.k.a. the "track". It will be an expensive education.
Craig More than 1 year ago
Kathleen,Best advice?Don't it's a terrible habit.Ask any of the degenerates on this blog.Save your money.
Kim Lee More than 1 year ago
DRF has a section to learn how to read the 'racing form'...but it could be understood more easily if someone could go over it with you just to get you familiar
Matthew Sanchez More than 1 year ago
what happens if IHA finds himself on the lead??? he always breaks good n is two or three three lenghts off the lead.. he has great cruising speed!!! maybe baffert takes back paynter back!!! no other horse has much speed in the race??
Matthew Sanchez More than 1 year ago
can IHA do something he hasnt done before?? wire the field n not have a target to chase??
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
If Mario sticks to the plan shown in the KD and P, no matter how slow, IHA will cruise close to the front, relax, and enjoy the breather. He'll save his energy for the stretch just in case there's another horse that has some gas left. That would be what I would do but I read somewhere that O'Neill says to hit the front if the pace is slow. I'm not sure I agree with that because one or more of the speedier horses could challenge him along the way, making him get it on, maybe pinch him to the rail. I'm not a trainer so please don't bash me too hard about those thoughts. :}
Matthew Sanchez More than 1 year ago
just hope he dont beat himself bcuz of a new game plan cuz everybody else is out to get him n may let him have the lead also its 1 1/2 miles so it might be tough
Perl More than 1 year ago
Unstoppable U will set the pace.
Mooch J More than 1 year ago
The DRF listed the Track variant for the Preakness at 08 which was the same as the Santa Anita Derby. Does anyone think this is out of line?
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
over time, do win bets do better or show bets ? me novice.
R. Martin More than 1 year ago
Win bets are better.
Paul Bowlinger More than 1 year ago
The only time to bet a show is when you believe the favorite will be off the board-otherwise the favorite takes all the money anyway. Most online services show individual pool totals to make an informed decision
Kim Lee More than 1 year ago
the bet that you have LESS tickets to tear up..so SHOW betting is higher % in your favor
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
which makes more (loses less) over time,exac's, tri's, or supr's ?
R. Martin More than 1 year ago
As a rule of thumb, the more horses you need to pick in correct order the greater the likelihood of losses. Thus, EX less risky than TRIF or SUPER. And TRIF less risky than SUPER. Good luck unmarx1!
Albert More than 1 year ago
I was originally concerned that IAH posted a big new top in the Preakness, which would open the possibility of a bounce in the Belmont, but that's not the case. He did move forward, but only marginally. The two numbers for those races are very close to being a pair up. That being the case, both Dullahan and Union Rags will likely have to run new lifetime tops to beat him. That's not likely, with Dullahan running his second off poly, which can mean a regression. And UR hasn't even gotten back to his new top off the layoff in Florida, which would not win here. The fact that both of them have turned in bullet works convinces me only that they have been pushed too hard. I think both will run very fresh, chasing Paynter, which won't do them any good. In fact, Paynter is the horse most likely to run a new top and if he does, he is the biggest threat to IAH. As for the race shape, Paynter will be giving IAH the same setup he had in the Derby and Preakness. Turning for home IAH will either have passed him or have him as the target-to-be-passed coming to the wire. It could be the third straight O'Neill - Baffert exacta. If you're not going to be betting a bomb and praying....and you can't bring yourself to bet IAH straight...try this exacta.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
I dont give Paynter that much credit. When he ran with real class (with IHA in Santa Derby), he was never on the lead. His speed only carries him when HE is the class. Union Rags and IHA will keep him honest. One dimensional Mike Smith will shoot for the lead and I wouldnt be surprised to see him fall off by the second turn. At that point, Smith will be desparate to regain ground only to fail terribly. Its too much of a jump for him. He is not Bodemeister's replacement.
Joe Tartaglia More than 1 year ago
He better not have passed him at the turn, because that will likely mean that Dullahan is catching him from behind. He needs to wait til the top of the stretch.
Kim Lee More than 1 year ago
no TC winner this year..won't happen..the racing god's will not allow it on their WATCH...the POWERHOUSE'S of yesteryear and today will be the hurdle that IHA and team will fall to....lukas/baffert
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Great analysis. Now pick the horse that beats him so I can pull the credibility out from underneath you.
R. Martin More than 1 year ago
I think Kim (in the last 2 words) was telling us she expects a longshot to win; either Optimizer (Lukas) or Paynter (Baffert). Who knows, this year's Belmont may well be a BOMB,... once again!
Patrick OGara More than 1 year ago
There's no sensible reason for opposing the fav. He's done everything they have asked him to, so far. Not a bet at odds-on though.