06/01/2012 4:12PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: O'Neill unfazed by outside distractions


ELMONT, N.Y. – Despite a bevy of negative press – which included an erroneous report that there are separate rules for him than the other trainers competing in the Belmont Stakes – trainer Doug O’Neill is just rolling with the punches.

Maintaining an upbeat attitude, O’Neill said Friday morning, is made easier by how well his horse I’ll Have Another is doing leading up to his date with destiny in the June 9 Belmont Stakes, where he will attempt to become Thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner

“It’s all about the horse,” O’Neill said. “As long as the horse is doing good, we’re all doing great. If he was battling [something] and then [we’re] getting a lot of stuff from other areas it would be difficult. As long as he’s doing good everything else is just kind of talk.”

The scrutiny on O’Neill will only get more intense as the Belmont gets closer. On Friday, he spent time taping a segment with The Today Show. On Monday he will be a guest on “Costas Now,” a talk show hosted by Emmy-Award winner Bob Costas that will air on the NBC Sports Network immediately following Monday’s Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals between the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings.

O’Neill did take issue with a published report that indicated there would be different rules applied to him regarding when his horse can be treated by veterinarians and how those treatments must be reported.

“Whatever they do in the detention barn setting, it’s for everybody,” O’Neill said.

The stewards handed out the rules of the detention barn to all of the trainers on the grounds here Friday morning. Though the horses are not required to be in the detention barn until noon Wednesday, O’Neill plans to move I’ll Have Another – and stable pony Lava Man – into the barn on Monday.

“The earlier we can get there the earlier we can settle in and get used to everything,” O’Neill said.

Friday marked the first day that the Belmont Stakes runners could train during an exclusive 15-minute period designated for them. I’ll Have Another was the first one on the track but was joined by Paynter, Atigun, Unstoppable U, Five Sixteen, and Guyana Star Dweej. Dullahan and Street Life came on when the track was open for everybody.

I’ll Have Another galloped his usual mile, though the last three furlongs of the gallop were a little slower than he had gone in his previous three days.

“He looked good to me coming by,” O’Neill said. “The one thing with the way we gallop they go different depending how they feel that day. The main thing we stress in the last part of the gallop is let them put their feet where they want to put them. Some days that may be clipping along at a faster pace than the previous day.”

Five Sixteen breezes

Belmont longshot Five Sixteen breezed five furlongs in 1:00.95, working in company with stablemate Live for Today.

With jockey Rosie Napravnik up, Five Sixteen, started three-quarters of a length behind but quickly caught up his workmate through a quarter of 25.00 seconds. Five Sixteen finished about a half-length in front, getting his final three furlongs in 35.95.

Napravnik said trainer Dominick Schettino said he “wanted him to start out a little slower and finish up really well and that’s exactly what he did.”

Asked about her horse’s ability to get the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont, Napravnik said, “I’m sure he’ll be at his best at a mile and a half – whatever his best ends up being.”