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Belmont Stakes 2012: O'Neill consults with Billy Turner, Seattle Slew's trainer
ELMONT, N.Y. – Doug O’Neill wasn’t so much interested in talking to the connections of the recent horses who attempted – and failed – to win the Triple Crown. Instead, O’Neill wanted to talk someone who actually accomplished the feat.
So on Tuesday morning, about two hours after watching I’ll Have Another gallop a strong mile at Belmont Park, O’Neill had a little sit-down with Billy Turner, the trainer of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
Sitting at a table outside Barn 9 for approximately 40 minutes, O’Neill picked Turner’s brain about his experiences some 35 years ago.
“He’s done what I’m hoping and dreaming of doing,” O’Neill said later in the day. “The one thing he said, which we’re already doing, was getting him here early and training over the track. He said, ‘That’s the biggest suggestion I would have given you had you asked me.’ He was such a class act, just very complimentary to the whole staff.”
“The most important thing about Belmont is training on the track,” said the 72-year-old Turner, who still trains a few horses on this circuit. “Woody [Stephens] proved it time and time again. You go back and try to find somebody that’s done something surprising in the Belmont that didn’t train on the track and you can't find it."
The exception might have been last year when Ruler On Ice vanned up from Monmouth Park the morning of the race to win the Belmont at 24-1.
O’Neill shipped I’ll Have Another to Belmont the day after he won the Preakness. The horse has been training over it since May 24.
On Tuesday, reunited with exercise rider Jonny Garcia – who resolved some visa issues that prevented him from getting licensed in New York until Monday – I’ll Have Another completed the final three furlongs of his gallop in 38.26 seconds, according to Daily Racing Form . By comparison, three of the 10 timed workouts going three furlongs on Tuesday were slower than I’ll Have Another’s time.
“If you watch our horse gallop, he’s almost like breezing every day,” O’Neill said. “I don’t think fitness will be an issue.”
O’Neill’s decision not to breeze I’ll Have Another officially between the Preakness and the Belmont was brought up in his conversation with Turner. Turner worked Seattle Slew twice at one mile in between the two races, but told O’Neill that was more “to take the edge off” his high-strung colt.
I’ll Have Another is a more laid-back sort of animal who appears to get plenty out of his gallops.
“We discussed all that, he knows his horse,” Turner said.
Turner said he has watched I’ll Have Another train a couple of mornings and has been impressed by what he’s seen.
“He’s a pretty nice horse, I think a lot of the horse,” Turner said. “I watched him go out the first day he got here after the Preakness and he’s just a happy horse with energy, wanting to go out there and train. He took to Belmont like nothing.”
Turner said that O’Neill asked him about schooling in the paddock and the gate. Turner did not take Seattle Slew to the gate because it would have been like “teasing him,” O’Neill said Turner told him. Tuner did school Seattle Slew several times in the paddock.
O’Neill said he planned one visit to the gate and one to the paddock for I’ll Have Another.
O’Neill said he told Turner that when I’ll Have Another “experiences something once he’s totally cool with it.”
Turner said he doesn’t see too many similarities between Seattle Slew and I’ll Have Another.
“Both are beautiful movers,” Turner said. “As far as their attitudes and so forth, Slew was a bear of a hose. This horse seems to do what you ask him to do and he likes to do it, and that’s just the kind of horse you like to train. Slew was a lot of work.”
Garcia got on I’ll Have Another on Tuesday for the first time since before the Preakness. Through an interpreter, Garcia said I’ll Have Another feels the same to him as he did before the Preakness.
“He’s pretty much the same. The only difference is this track is a little heavier,” Garcia said.
Humberto Gomez had been getting on the horse for the previous five mornings. Gomez had previously worked for Bobby Frankel, and was the regular exercise rider of Aptitude, the 2000 Belmont Stakes runner-up as the 8-5 favorite to Commendable.
“He’s looked good every day here, but it is nice having Jonny back on him and having Jonny tell me that he’s handling the surface great – he’s stretching as good as ever,” O’Neill said. “It’s definitely an added bonus to a great day.”
the best thing this horse has going for him is Mario G. the fact that this jockey has come from total obscurity tells u this is meant to be!!! what a breath of fresh air!!!
DO you know that if you add up all the lengths that Optimizer has lost by in Graded races, it comes out to 43. If you reverse those numbers, it becomes 34 which is how many years since a triple crown. I'd say the numbers speak for themselves.
It's a great idea for Doug O'Neill to glean the knowledge of someone who has already won the Triple Crown. The TC was last won 34 years ago. The depth of people who are still associated with the business may not be around anymore. Who knows, Doug may even have a past connection with Billy somehow, and Doug turned to someone he not only knows, but also trusts for advice. Excellent planning ahead, Doug. Go Team Reddam and I'll Have Another!!
There's a horse in this years Belmont who has recently been flying under the radar, a horse with a chance at a big price.. a horse who in the last 7 weeks (according to connections) has come into his own, put on "good wieght" and is dead fit.. a horse that clearly didnt like churchill.. but most importantly Alpha is a horse a horse who should relish the 1.5 mile distance and who calls Belmont home. Alpha is not without his issues, he's a head strong, stubborn, and sometimes wildly erractic in the paddock and the gate.. and if he wasnt so regally bred he most defntly would have been gelded after his meltdown in the paddock prior to to derby.. but if he can find a away to put it all together on june 9th, we could be looking at an interesting strech run.. Go alpha!
I love the picture above of I'll Have Another being embraced by Doug O'Neill. The connection between the two of them jumps off the page at you and envelopes you. That picture is just lovely. Barbara Livingston takes the most soulful, beautiful equine pictures. She has a true and rare gift.
Interesting Numbers: IHA is the 12th since Affirmed in 1978 to win the first two legs.... If he wins the Belmont, he would be the 12th Triple Crown winner.... 12 x 12 =144 In the 12th year of the 21st century...IHA WINS BELMONT 144!
Seems like O'neil is thinking of everything.
Ha! Ha! Introducing O'Neil to Billy Turner is a bit like introducing Jose Canseco to Babe Ruth.
Do any of u know who the great grandady of IHA is. Its Sea Hero, do any of u know who he is??? Look it up. IHA is bred to run 2 miles. Single him in the multiple race wagers on Belmont day and u will cash nicely.
Optimizer will win the Belmont!!! Why? Because he won't move to soon. One thing that Optimizer has down pat is not moving too soon. Actually, most of the other horses will come back to him in the stretch. Union Rags has forgotten everything he ever knew about winning and recent changes aren't gonna change that. I'll Have Another has proven about all he can be expected to prove and more. Let's take the horses that won't move too soon. That's Optimizer, Dullahan and Alpha. Sorry!!!!