05/30/2012 3:45PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Triple Crown club ready for a new member

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Susie Raisher/NYRA
I'll Have Another trains Monday at Belmont Park. The connections of the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, are rooting for I'll Have Another to complete the sweep.

The time has arrived, Patrice Wolfson said Wednesday, to pass the Triple Crown torch. Wolfson and her late husband, Lou, owned the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, who swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes in 1978. The torch has been in her hands so long, she might have third-degree burns.

But on a national teleconference Wednesday featuring Triple Crown winners from the 1970s, Wolfson said she will be rooting for I’ll Have Another to join Affirmed and the 10 other horses who have captured the Triple Crown when he competes in the 144th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9.

Wolfson said “There’s something about this chestnut” that reminds her of Affirmed, who, like I’ll Have Another, was a chestnut-colored colt.

They have more in common than looks. They also share some blood. I’ll Have Another’s great, great grandsire is Raise a Native, the grandsire of Affirmed.

“And maybe it’s just time,” Wolfson said. “Racing needs a star.”

Wolfson said that I’ll Have Another “has got tenacity.”

[I’LL HAVE ANOTHER: Derby, Preakness winner runs for Triple Crown]

“It looks like he’ll be a good successor if it comes about,” she said. “There were times I didn’t think I was ready to relinquish it. I’m ready now. I’ve watched him gallop on television, and he sure strides out beautifully when he gallops.”

Steve Cauthen, who was just 18 when he rode Affirmed, said he also sees similarities between Affirmed and I’ll Have Another.

“He has a lot of try in him,” Cauthen said. “You could tell the way he dug in at the Derby, and especially the Preakness. He likes a battle. He’s very relaxed like Affirmed was. Nothing seems to bother him.”

Cauthen said he also is pulling for a Triple Crown.

“The last thing you would want to do is root against somebody succeeding,” Cauthen said. “It’s so difficult to do.”

“I’m ready to pass it on. Doug O’Neill,” Cauthen said, referring to the trainer of I’ll Have Another, “I’ve been impressed with him. Mario Gutierrez seems like a great kid. I admire the confidence and the relaxed attitude he has. I’m rooting for them 100 percent. I hope it works out.”

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

Cauthen said that for a horse to sweep the Triple Crown, “you have to have everything go right.”

“The stars have to be aligned,” he said.

Since Affirmed became the 11th Triple Crown winner, another 11 horses – not including I’ll Have Another – have won the Derby and Preakness and then failed in the Belmont. So, I’ll Have Another will become the 12th Triple Crown winner, or the 12th horse since Affirmed to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown before faltering in the Belmont.

Those who have been there know just how difficult a feat it is to achieve.

“It’s so hard to do, I’ll be shocked when it’s done again,” said Penny Chenery, who owned Secretariat.