06/08/2012 3:02PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Rival trainers react to I'll Have Another's scratch

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ELMONT, N.Y. − While the defection of I’ll Have Another will certainly enhance their chances of winning Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, trainers Dale Romans, Michael Matz, and Ken McPeek all expressed sympathy for Doug O’Neill and the connections of the injured horse.

“I feel his pain, believe me. Everybody in racing does,” said Dale Romans, whose Dullahan becomes the probable favorite with I’ll Have Another out. “Obviously, it makes our job easier now because he was the horse to beat, but we really wanted the opportunity to compete with him. It’s devastating news for them, for us, and for racing.” 

Michael Matz, whose Union Rags figures to be the second choice in the Belmont, was attending graduation ceremonies in Maryland when news broke that I’ll Have Another was out of the race. Matz said he did not receive the news until early Friday afternoon.

“We have all had similar problems like that happen, but at a level like this it’s pretty devastating, especially after having won the first two legs of the Triple Crown,” he said. “Obviously, nobody likes to see a horse come out of a race like that. Just having him participating would have meant a lot for racing. You always hope, in races like this, the best horse wins. Whether he’s the best horse or not, we’ll never know now.”

Ken McPeek, who has two of the remaining 11 Belmont starters, Atigun and Unstoppable U, said there is no worse phone call a trainer has to make than the one O’Neill had to make to his owner, telling him his horse was injured and out of the race. 

“I’m sad for the connections, and I certainly don’t envy Doug having to make that phone call informing his owner what happened,” said McPeek, who won the 2002 Belmont with the 70-1 Sarava.

McPeek said I’ll Have Another’s untimely injury is just the type of unexpected circumstance that prompted him, in part, to enter his two 3-year-olds in the Belmont. Both are decided longshots.

“I was on the fence Tuesday morning whether to run Unstoppable U or not, but I mentioned to my assistant that I’ve seen so many weird things happen, you just never know in this business,” McPeek. “I’m really glad to have both of them in there now.” 

Todd Pletcher does not have a starter in this year’s Belmont, but he said he could empathize with O’Neill after having to scratch the heavily favored Uncle Mo the morning before last year’s Kentucky Derby.

“It’s a shame," he said. "I feel bad for the connections, and it’s also tough for the game, but that’s the world we live in. Every morning you come in and hold your breath 24 hours a day. I don’t know if you ever get numb to stuff like this. There are disappointments all the time, and then there are levels of disappointments, and I’ve got to say it doesn’t get any higher level than when you’re on the brink of immortality like they were. I really feel sorry for them.”  

2012 Belmont Stakes Field

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

Watchmaker
Odds

Morning
Line

1

Street Life

C. Brown

J. Lezcano

6-1

8-1

2

Unstoppable U

K. McPeek

J. Alvarado

20-1

20-1

3

Union Rags

M. Matz

J. Velazquez

5-2

3-1

4

Atigun

K. McPeek

J. Leparoux

15-1

15-1

5

Dullahan

D. Romans

J. Castellano

9-5

9-5

6

Ravelo's Boy

M. Azpurua

A. Solis

50-1

30-1

7

Five Sixteen

D. Schettino

R. Napravnik

50-1

30-1

8

Guyana Star Dweej

D. Shivmangal

K. Desormeaux

50-1

30-1

9

Paynter

B. Baffert

M. Smith

4-1

7-2

10

Optimizer

D. Lukas

C. Nakatani

20-1

15-1

11

I'll Have Another

D. O'Neill

M. Gutierrez

SCR

SCR

12

My Adonis

K. Breen

R. Dominguez

15-1

15-1

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