06/07/2012 11:40AM

I'll Have Another one lap away from Triple Crown immortality

Email
Tom Keyser
I'll Have Another would become the 12th Triple Crown winner with a victory in Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – I’ll Have Another was born in Kentucky, received his early training in Florida, began his racing career in California, and has flown to Kentucky, Maryland, and twice to New York in the past nine months. He has traveled many miles, but no journey will seem farther than the one on which he embarks on Saturday, when I’ll Have Another, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, attempts to become a Triple Crown winner in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

The Belmont is 1 1/2 miles, one lap around Belmont Park, but there is a 34-year history of failure in this endeavor. Not since 1978 has a horse swept the Triple Crown.

“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.”

The numbers 11 and 12 are prominent in this Belmont Stakes. There are 11 Triple Crown winners, the last being Affirmed. Since Affirmed, 11 horses have won the Derby and Preakness and failed in the Belmont. I’ll Have Another will be the 12th horse to join one of those lists. The Belmont is the 11th race on the card. I’ll Have Another will start from post 11 in a field of 12 in a 12-furlong race. This is the 144th Belmont – 12 squared is 144.

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 p.m, and a postrace 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.

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

I’ll Have Another will be an odds-on favorite to complete the sweep, but his connections, though confident in his chances, have been soberly realistic about the task.

“My own experience is that when we’re an overwhelming favorite, we always lose,” said Paul Reddam, the owner of I’ll Have Another, who cashed a sizeable bet on his colt when he won the Derby at 15-1.

“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 has clearly proven 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, which towers over this group.

Now, though, he must run for the third time in five weeks at a third different racetrack. He is facing accomplished rivals like Dullahan and Union Rags, who were third and seventh, respectively, in the Derby and then skipped the Preakness to come into this race fresh.

O’Neill has tried to take much of the uncertainty out of the endeavor. He sent I’ll Have Another to Belmont Park the day after the Preakness to get used to this sandy racetrack. I’ll Have Another trained brilliantly coming into the Preakness, and while he hasn’t looked quite as sharp this week at Belmont Park, he definitely had his best morning of the week on Thursday.

I’ll Have Another’s jockey, Mario Gutierrez, has put up flawless rides in the Derby and Preakness – and in the Santa Anita races before that – but he has yet to ride at Belmont Park. He was named on five horses on Friday’s card to help familiarize himself with the nuances of the largest main track in North America.

But there is plenty that has been out of the control of O’Neill.

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. He recently was given a 45-day suspension by the California Horse Racing Board for a carbon dioxide violation in August 2010 at Del Mar, his last transgression. That suspension is set to begin in July.

Since the Preakness, Belmont Park stewards have refused to let O’Neill use a nasal strip on I’ll Have Another. He wore one 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 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 in recent weeks or over the years, the facts are that this horse, 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. The focus, O’Neill maintains, should be on what his horse has done, and what he is trying to do.

“It’s been an unbelievable ride,” O’Neill said. “He’s handled the whole journey as good as you could ask a horse.”

D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer of Optimizer, agrees that the focus has oftentimes been misplaced during this Triple Crown.

“The story should be that horse,” Lukas said. “We should be excited that there’s a potentially historic moment in racing.”

Indeed, that is why a crowd of more than 100,000 is expected to attend this Belmont. They do not care about cooked oats, detention barns, nasal strips, or any of the other sideshows this Triple Crown circus begat.

No, they will be here to see if I’ll Have Another can 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.

2012 Belmont Stakes Field

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

Watchmaker
Odds

Morning
Line

1

Street Life

C. Brown

J. Lezcano

15-1

12-1

2

Unstoppable U

K. McPeek

J. Alvarado

30-1

30-1

3

Union Rags

M. Matz

J. Velazquez

6-1

6-1

4

Atigun

K. McPeek

J. Leparoux

30-1

30-1

5

Dullahan

D. Romans

J. Castellano

5-1

5-1

6

Ravelo's Boy

M. Azpurua

A. Solis

50-1

50-1

7

Five Sixteen

D. Schettino

R. Napravnik

50-1

50-1

8

Guyana Star Dweej

D. Shivmangal

K. Desormeaux

50-1

50-1

9

Paynter

B. Baffert

M. Smith

12-1

8-1

10

Optimizer

D. Lukas

C. Nakatani

30-1

20-1

11

I'll Have Another

D. O'Neill

M. Gutierrez

3-5

4-5

12

My Adonis

K. Breen

R. Dominguez

30-1

20-1

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

mrm More than 1 year ago
Security barn Check, no nasal strips check, no workout check...SCRATCH check
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
And all of a sudden.... awwwssshhitttttt !!!
Brian More than 1 year ago
I just don't see IHA in the same league as the other Triple Crown winners. Add to this that there is no uniformity with the nose strips, barns, etc., and I just don't see burning this horse up to try to win it. We wil know at the top of the stretch....if the horse isn't moving gracefully towards the front, they are going to put the brakes on him. Makes no sense to stomp on him just to win a TC. This horse went from a 15-1 shot in the derby, to a 3/5 shot to with the TC?! It's funny how we can jump on the bandwaggon so quickly in 5 weeks time.
MARK More than 1 year ago
NYRA should Let I'llHave Another wear the nose strip ,Horse raceing needs a triple crown winner ,& any other horse that want to wear one
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
I agree. Any horse should be allowed to use those. There's valid reason for banning them. They are no more 'enhancing' than blinkers or tongue-ties.
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
oops "NO valid reason..."
The Baron More than 1 year ago
Good for O'Neill to threaten to scratch the horse over this "cooked oats" issue- or as horseman know it by the term "Hot Mash" - this is BS and the NYRA is getting stupid already!! He should have done about the NASAL STRIP!! The NYRA GESTAPO/SS better get their act together - they have already gone Bankrupt once - they keep this crap up they will have to do it again!! They need to look at the MACRO picture - TB horse racing needs something like a Triple Crown winner NOW!! to help make the game go forward - rather than being this lame over nothing!! They have all the horses in a detention barn, wtf more do they want?? But they have a bigger theif in there midst - Richard Dutrow - but they don't disturb him , because he is a "local"!! It is all a bunch of political horse pucky and all of this over the years has led to the sports demise!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its funny how these so called experts said Mario misjudged the pace at the Preakness. Well I guess misjudging equals a win. Then everyone is saying his odds is too low. Well to bad, the horse has already paid high mutuels. So even if he somehow looses all the "I told you so's" will come barking. Well good for you, however some of us has made tons of money already on Ill have another. This horse explodes with gameness the last 3 furlongs. He has beat every Baffert horse even in California and mowed them down (watch all his replays). This horse has already worked the fastest and run the fastest route times for 3 year olds. Dullahan works a 45 work, who does that and thinks they are gonna win a 1 mile race let alone 1 and a half miles. (eliminate). Union rags doesnt have any distance works on his tab (same reason I eliminated him in Kentucky). The rest of the Field is trash. Paynter has beat 5 horses in a allowance and a 4 horse maiden field. He has long works however he is lacking much class eliminate. Bafferts horses are bums, No Pletcher, Lukas horses are bums, No Zito this year Doug slipped one in. IHA can sit 8 Lengths back or 3 Lengths back it does'nt matter. His worktab should tell you hes fit enuff to run allday (all long drills in California). People said Bode ran to fast at Kentucky excuses (mowed down) Then people said Bode should win at Preakness (mowed down). Oh well people will be people and the minute he looses people will jump for joy but I will be jumping for joy when he crushes this weak field. Oh yeah the Lakers lost and probably wont get back to the Finals for a while however California has threepeated before DERBY, PREAKNESS, BELMONT
Mooch J More than 1 year ago
Kings !!
Chris Thomas More than 1 year ago
BTW, Mario is a very intelligent and astute rider and has not only been on the Belmont track surface in practice but has also studied tape of his opponents from past performances as well as watching tape from ALL the former Belmont runners. He is prepared. If he loses it WON'T be from jockey error.IMHO.
Chris Thomas More than 1 year ago
Truth is that Mike Smith hasn't had a "brilliant" ride since he got hurt years ago. He either rides a horse on the front end or goes 8+ wide into the stretch trying to make up ground Mario is who Mike used to be in his early days. Fortunately for Mike he has a speedster under him so he will at least give the appearance of attempting to win but Baffert's horse will flag out around the 7/8th's mark which will leave it to I'll Have Another, Union Rags, or Dullahan to pick up the pieces. That's my guess.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree - he rides in horses in the "retirement lane"!! He still rides well in the races that matter - but don't count on him do any thing risky these days - I can't say as I blame him!! Speaking of bad rides - what about Big Brown , knucklehead K. Desormeaux - no one has yet explained why this horse pulled up in the Belmont have they?? did I miss something?? My guess is NY Mob got to the slime Dutrow and had him lay down to cash a huge bet!! They can not get to this crew - Reddam has to much money and they are not local - so no luck there. If this race is run legit I Will Have Another should "PARK" and I believe he will - odds don't matter and these Union Rags, Dullahans,Paynter can all get it fixed!! Union Rags is a mutt in this field and trainning him off site was just stupid!! Closers do not win this race as much as horses on the lead or near the lead - look at you history books. Baring any monkey business IWHA wins this and breaks the Jinx!!
MrAntmar More than 1 year ago
Enough with Big Brown -- horse was spent plain and simple. The connections new it hence their reaction. What were they going to do pull him before the biggest race in the sport? I'll be rooting for IHA but the same thing could happen here. Hoping for Paynter leading down the stretch - IHA chasing and getting by with Dullahan closing at the wire. Dullahan/IHA one two with street street life and paynter finishing 3rd and 4th
R. Martin More than 1 year ago
If IHA goes off at 3/5 or 1/2 he will be, IMO, the most underlaid bet of any Belmont. On the square he should be 3/2, 8/5, or 9/5. Union Rags, Paynter, Dullahan and Optimizer will all be nice overlays.
Mr 6 More than 1 year ago
odds dont mean nothing. IHA already been paying bundles of cash,too bad if you didnt collect
Kurt Sholar More than 1 year ago
The big "X" factor that no one seems to be talking about much is Mario Gutierrez. He is a very good jockey for sure as evident by his last 2 races, but it's a known statistic about jockeys unfamiliar with Belmonts track not doing so well in the Belmont Stakes at a Mile and a Half. Alot of the previous 11 horses that failed at the triple crown lost because of miss-timed rides by jockeys not familiar with where the finish line is at in a mile & a half race at belmont. It's something else to think about.
neigh sayer More than 1 year ago
The finish line is in the same place for a mile and a half as it for all other races at Belmont. The mistimed rides you speak of are misjudgements of how much ground is left to cover. It's just a much larger track with big sweeping turns and a long stretch.
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
The stretch is actually shorter. It's the turns that are longer.
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
To quote Jeremy Plonk from his current "Countdown" article: "Belmont’s stretch run to the wire is the shortest of all three Triple Crown races (1,097 feet), so please resist the temptation to repeat the oft-spewed misnomer about the “long stretch” at Belmont Park separating champions. This race, and its track configuration, is all about the turns. I’LL HAVE ANOTHER will either make or miss history in the Belmont stretch, but it’s the turns that will make or break his chances."
Mooch J More than 1 year ago
Mario Gutierrez will be riding in the Brooklyn Handicap on Friday at 1-1/2 miles
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The jocks that screwed this up before, by mis timed rides were basically Ronny Franklin - a coke head and K. Desormeaux a knucklehead!! I really believe Mario has more brains than the two of them combined, if this IWHA loses it will not be because he got a bad ride by Mario!! Say what you want about Mexicans but they are hard workers and keep to the task - just look at your gardner!! He will ride a few on Friday and get the lay of the land - that will work just fine.O'Neill and Reddam are no dummies either - they have no stone unturned and want to win this. The horse looks super and feels no ill effects from the Derby or Preakness. I do agree that the price is to short as a gambling proposition - so Don't Bet!! Just watch it and enjoy!! It is a horse race and it has to be run - anything can happen!!