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Belmont Stakes 2012: O'Neill 'confident' ahead of I'll Have Another's Triple Crown bid
By Jay Privman
ELMONT, N.Y. – For a guy whose colt will try to end a 34-year drought in the Triple Crown on Saturday and whose professional life has been repeatedly picked over in the past month, trainer Doug O’Neill looked awfully calm Monday morning at Belmont Park, just days before I’ll Have Another tries to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in the 144th Belmont Stakes.
The reason? I’ll Have Another.
“I wouldn’t be so upright if the horse wasn’t doing so good,” O’Neill said after I’ll Have Another completed his daily exercise Monday morning. “He’s doing well. He’s eating good. He looks well.”
Indeed, more than four weeks into the grind of the Triple Crown, and two months since he attracted national attention with his victory in the Santa Anita Derby, I’ll Have Another appears to be coming into the Belmont in good shape. Though he will not have a workout between the Preakness and Belmont, he gallops strongly every morning and usually finishes off his gallop at a clip close to workout speed; on Monday, for instance, Daily Racing Form had him traveling from the finish line to the 1 1/4-mile pole in 26.52 seconds.
“He’s four more good gallops away from making history,” O’Neill said.
That is contrast to the last Triple Crown bid, in 2008 by Big Brown, who in the days leading up to the Belmont suffered from a quarter crack and missed some training time.
“I’m very confident,” O’Neill said. “Not cocky or arrogant, but confident.”
O’Neill said I’ll Have Another has adapted well to the surroundings at Belmont Park and has taken kindly to the sandy surface. I’ll Have Another has been here for more than two weeks, having arrived the day following his victory in the May 19 Preakness.
“He’s handled everything so well,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill also remained outwardly sanguine regarding the required move to a detention barn for all Belmont Stakes horses. O’Neill wanted to get into the new barn as soon as possible and hoped to do so Monday, but was informed the barn would not be ready until Tuesday, so he was hoping to move then. All Belmont horses have to be in that barn by Wednesday. The Belmont Stakes horses are the only horses who will be required to be in that barn.
“It’s not in our control. After training tomorrow is the game plan,” O’Neill said.
It looks as though I’ll Have Another will have as many as 10 challengers in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, the longest of the Triple Crown races. Entries are due Wednesday morning, and post positions will be drawn at 11 a.m. Eastern; HRTV will have live coverage of the draw.
In addition to I’ll Have Another, to be ridden by Mario Gutierrez, the rest of the Belmont field is expected to be Atigun (Julien Leparoux the rider), Dullahan (Javier Castellano), Five Sixteen (Rosie Napravnik), Guyana Star Dweej (Kent Desormeaux), Optimizer (Corey Nakatani), Paynter (Mike Smith), Ravelo’s Boy (Alex Solis), Street Life (Jose Lezcano), and Union Rags (John Velazquez). Unstoppable U (Junior Alvarado) is possible.
Guyana Star Dweej, a rank outsider who has won once in nine starts and will be making his stakes debut in the Belmont, had his final workout for the race Monday morning in company with Shkespeare Shaliyah, another 3-year-old trained by Doodnauth Shivmangal.
With Desormeaux up, Guyana Star Dweej was timed by Daily Racing Form in 49.30 seconds for a half-mile, but his stablemate appeared to be going the easier of the two.
Shivmangal said he made the decision to run in the Belmont after Guyana Star Dweej galloped Sunday in company with Shkspeare Shaliyah. Shivmangal said he thinks that outside of the top three or four contenders, “the rest of the horses are just mediocre horses.”
On Sunday at Belmont Park, five Belmont Stakes runners had their final works, topped by Dullahan, who went a half-mile in 45.82, and Paynter, who was timed in 1:24.57 for seven furlongs. Street Life went five furlongs in 1:01.16, Atigun had an easy half-mile work in 48.44, and Unstoppable U completed five furlongs in 1:02.13.
Also Sunday, at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, Union Rags flew through five furlongs in 58.50.
Union Rags is scheduled to travel by van to Belmont Park on Wednesday. Ravelo’s Boy, who has been training at Calder, was expected to arrive here Tuesday morning following a near 24-hour van ride from Florida.
Although it was cloudy and cool Monday morning, rain held off until after the Belmont horses here had completed their daily training, and the rain did not last long. According to The Weather Channel, showers are forecast at a 30-40 percent chance each day through Friday, with high temperatures in the low- to mid-70s.
The forecast for Saturday is encouraging, with a high temperature of 77 degrees and only a 10 percent chance of rain.
– additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch
I'll Have Another has handled everything beautifully the past three weeks between the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. In fact, he has handled everything beautifully all this year. He has been stellar the entire year. He's an impressive horse and I'm proud of him! He has lived up to all expectations of him and greatly surpassed them.
I watched Costas interview O'Neill Monday nite. He was confident without bravado and answered any question in much the same way. He's keeping issues close to his vest and verbalized my feelings that the race is all about IHA, not him or any negative press. NY should be embracing this event rather than appearing to impede a TC win. Bravo, Doug!
DULLAHAN Pays $12......Merry Christmas in June!!!!
wild and crazy 420 Hey folks let me give you the Belmont stake winner, I'll have another. The horse won the derby by beating 19 horses and came back and beat another 9. He is the logical winner. Key him with Dullahan/ Union rags and Pynter. I also like to mention that they are bringing in Ravelo,s boy from florida by van with a 24 hrs ride. Go figure his perfomance. Union rags by van from Maryland probably # hours ride. No body can beat I'll have another. Good luck
IHA won't win, Union Rags will be last,,if i could get odds on that,,I'd hammer that hard ATIGUN- McPeek's got him ready, he is the sneaky play
Looks like IHA will be in the detention barn by himself. ;( Lava Man's not going with him cause O'Neill thinks he won't adapt as well as IHA. sigh....
All those $2 Win souvenir tickets is going to bring IHA's odds way down.
I feel that Doug is doing the right thing.If the race is moved 2 weeks because of strike I'm sure he will work him.If any horse beets I'll Have Another it will be Five Sixteen as they both have the best distance pedigree.
I predict that UR will be on the lead and the only question will be - Can he get the 1 1/2 miles.
I'll Have Another may have to deal with something no one could have expected, a Triple Crown bid possibly derailed by a strike. According to the New York Daily News, there is the threat of track maintenance workers and starters striking on Friday, the eve of The Belmont Stakes. If that happens, I suspect it could push the Belmont back to June 23 (it could not be next Saturday due to NBC having a prior commitment to air the US Open Golf Championships next weekend).
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