06/05/2012 3:55PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Romans wouldn't mind role of villain


NEW YORK – The Belmont Stakes came to New York City on Tuesday with I’ll Have Another and his quest to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 the obvious center of attention in a special reception at Rockefeller Center. But it was trainer Dale Romans who stole the show. Romans, whose Dullahan could provide I’ll Have Another with his toughest challenge in the race, was asked if he had any mixed emotions about possibly spoiling the party and preventing history from being made on Saturday.

"I’d like to have 120,000 people booing me when I walk out of Belmont Park on Saturday," said Romans. "I have no mixed emotions at all about winning this race."

[BELMONT STAKES: Video updates, expected field, early odds]

Like the Pied Piper, I’ll Have Another’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, and jockey, Mario Gutierrez, drew plenty of followers to Manhattan for the well attended event, which also featured appearances by trainer Ken McPeek, who will run Atigun and perhaps Unstoppable U in the Belmont, and jockey John Velazquez. Velazquez, who will be aboard another top contender, Union Rags, for the first time in the Belmont, was the subject of a special video presentation commemorating his induction into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame later this summer.

For Gutierrez, it was his first local appearance since he rode I’ll Have Another to victory in the Preakness 17 days earlier as well as his first visit to New York City.

Gutierrez said even though he has yet to ride a race over the spacious 1 1/2-mile Belmont Park oval, he’s confident of his chances.

"I’ll gallop a few horses in the morning to get the feel of the track, and I’m riding several horses on Friday," said Gutierrez. "I’ll be fine. I’ll Have Another will take care of the rest. I get all my confidence from him."

Gutierrez, O’Neill, and owner Paul Reddam are all scheduled to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium before the Yankee-Mets game on Friday night. And while O’Neill acknowledged his pitching arm is in great shape, he said those plans may have to be canceled since he runs and Gutierrez rides Boxeur des Rues in the Brooklyn Handicap in the final race on Friday’s card at Belmont.

"Post time for the Brooklyn is 5:40 and they want us at the stadium by 6:15," said O’Neill. "Unless they get us a helicopter it doesn’t look good for us making it there on time."

O’Neill reiterated the confidence he has in I’ll Have Another despite the daunting task of attempting to end a 34-year drought in search of racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner.

"There are some really talented horses in this field," O’Neill said. "But as long as I’ll Have Another doesn’t wake up with a headache or on the wrong side of the bed on Saturday morning and doesn’t feel like running, I don’t think he’ll get beat."