Updated on 06/11/2012 12:40PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Show goes on without I'll Have Another

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Barbara D. Livingston
I'll Have Another, at Belmont on Wednesday, was scratched from the Belmont Stakes on Friday, leaving the race with a field of 11.

ELMONT, N.Y. – As they say on Broadway, the show, such as it is, must go on.

The scratch on Friday of I’ll Have Another from Saturday's 144th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, and his retirement from racing, has taken the Belmont from a potential Triple Crown bid to an anticlimax, an unsatisfying coda to what had been a compelling and controversial Triple Crown series.

There is still a field of 11, still well-known horses such as Dullahan and Union Rags, but the Triple Crown bid was what made this race of such great interest, and now that major element is gone.

The Triple Crown will remain unclaimed yet again. It has not been swept since Affirmed in 1978.

“Thirty-four years of it not happening. That’s a pretty strong statistic,” Doug O’Neill, the trainer of I’ll Have Another, said earlier this week. “You’ve got to stay injury free. You have to maintain your physique and your energy. That’s a huge hurdle.”

How true that turned out to be.

I’ll Have Another, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, would have been seeking to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. He was an odds-on favorite on the morning lines set by Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, and Eric Donovan of Belmont Park.

Now, Watchmaker and Donovan have Dullahan favored at 9-5. Union Rags is the second choice of both – 5-2 on Watchmaker’s line, 3-1 on Donovan's. Both have Paynter the third choice. Watchmaker has him at 4-1, Donovan at 7-2.

Dullahan, who won the Blue Grass Stakes in April, finished third in the Derby, then skipped the Preakness to point for the Belmont.

“I love my horse. I think this is a really good colt,” said Dale Romans, who said it was “devastating” that I’ll Have Another was scratched.

Romans and Jerry Crawford, who heads the Donegal Racing partnership that owns Dullahan, disagreed over whether to run back in the Preakness. Romans wanted to, Crawford did not. Crawford won out, and both now agree that it turned out to be the right move.

“I think Dale agrees it all worked out for the best,” Crawford said.

Union Rags was a troubled seventh in the Derby, then also bypassed the Preakness. He won the Fountain of Youth Stakes earlier this year.

“I just hope, in this race, he gets a clear chance to run,” said Michael Matz, the trainer of Union Rags. “I’d like him to get a clear trip, so he can show what he can do.”

John Velazquez rides Union Rags, replacing Julien Leparoux.

[BELMONT STAKES: Past performances, video updates, contender profiles, odds]

Paynter was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, then was second in the Derby Trial before winning a Pimlico allowance race in his last start. He is trained by Bob Baffert, whose Bodemeister was second to I’ll Have Another in the Derby and Preakness.

“He’s a serious colt," said Ahmed Zayat, who owns Paynter and is the majority owner of Bodemeister. "He’s very talented. Distance should not be an issue.

“He’s drawn in a nice post,” Zayat said, referring to post 9. “He may be on the lead.”

Street Life, third in the Peter Pan in his last start, is a late threat in the race, but trainer Chad Brown thinks he could be prominent early depending on the pace.

“It’ll probably be a lot different pace from the Peter Pan,” Brown said. “If the pace is a little slow, he’ll be a little closer.”

I’ll Have Another was drawn in post 11 of the original 12-horse field. The only horse who now moves in one post position is My Adonis, who is on the outside.

Post time for the Belmont is scheduled for 6:40 p.m Eastern; the first race is at 11:35 a.m. The Belmont will be shown live by NBC in a 2 1/2-hour telecast beginning at 4:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network has live Belmont programming from 3-4:30, and a post-race show from 7-7:30.

The forecast for Saturday, according to The Weather Channel, is for a high of 80 degrees, and a 30-percent chance of isolated thunderstorms.

I’ll Have Another’s camp, though confident in his chances, had been soberly realistic about the task of sweeping the Triple Crown.

“My own experience is that when we’re an overwhelming favorite, we always lose,” Paul Reddam, the owner of I’ll Have Another, said earlier this week.

“If you could put me in a time machine and go back four months, and say, 'You’re going to win the Derby, and you’ll have to take your chances in the Belmont, and you’re going to get crushed: Would you accept that?' Yes, I would take the refrigerator – the Derby.”

I’ll Have Another proved himself the best horse of this good group of 3-year-olds. He won the Robert Lewis and Santa Anita Derby in California, became the first horse to break from post 19 in the Derby and win, then ran the fastest race of his life to catch the talented Bodemeister in the Preakness, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 109.

But in the Belmont he was going to be asked to run for the third time in five weeks at his third racetrack. While he had trained satisfactorily this week, he was not as sharp nor as eager as he had been at Pimlico before the Preakness.

O’Neill sent I’ll Have Another to Belmont Park the day after the Preakness to get used to this sandy racetrack.

The setback Friday was the latest blow to O’Neill, who has had a tumultuous spring.

Since the Derby, he has been subjected to widespread scrutiny over his record, which includes sanctions for a handful of horses testing for excess amounts of total carbon dioxide (TCO2). He recently was given a 45-day suspension by the California Horse Racing Board for a TCO2 violation in August 2010 at Del Mar, his last transgression. That suspension is set to begin in July.

Since the Preakness, Belmont Park stewards refused to let O’Neill use a nasal strip on I’ll Have Another in the Belmont; he wore it in his four previous starts this year in three other states. And all the Belmont horses were required by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to go into a detention barn, a decision that was not announced until after I’ll Have Another won the Preakness.

O’Neill has become a lightning rod through this Triple Crown, his record debated by both the informed and the uninformed. He has maintained his innocence of the charges against him, has not gotten defensive when questioned, and has adhered to all the requirements to which New York authorities have demanded, though he drew the line on Wednesday afternoon when security personnel at the detention barn told him he could not cook oats for I’ll Have Another.

After O’Neill on Wednesday afternoon threatened to pull the horse from the race, citing that I’ll Have Another needs cooked oats to guard against colic, the order was rescinded.

No matter what opinion one may have formed about O’Neill, I’ll Have Another won two important stakes in California earlier this year and passed all the required tests, won the Derby and passed all the required tests in Kentucky, and won the Preakness and passed all the required tests in Maryland.

Now, though, the focus of this Belmont turns to Dullahan and Union Rags, Paynter and Street Life.

But that’s not why a crowd of more than 100,000 was expected to attend this Belmont.

They were hoping to if I’ll Have Another could run his way into the history books, and join the likes of Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed and be called a Triple Crown winner.

That quest will begin anew with the 3-year-old crop of 2013.

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.