Belmont Will ‘Have Another’ Crack At History
Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another was reported to be doing well the morning after he arrived at Belmont Park by van on Sunday, May 20, and will soon begin training on the Belmont main track, according to Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill.
“He looks fantastic this morning,” said Sisterson. “He ate everything up last night and is a very happy horse. He walked the shedrow this morning. I have to speak with Doug, but it’s likely he will go to the main track at some point this week.”
In both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, I’ll Have Another made a late charge to overtake pacesetter Bodemeister, who has been ruled out of consideration for the Belmont Stakes.
“He came out of the Preakness fantastic, just like he came out of the Derby,” said Sisterson. “He acts like he never even ran a race.”
On Sunday morning at Pimlico, O’Neill could hardly contain his excitement as he reported that I’ll Have Another appeaed to have exited the Preakness in fine form.
“Bring it on! We’re ready to go. Super-pumped!” O’Neill said. “How he’s doing is going to dictate how we’re doing. This morning, he looks superb.
“The fact he’s still fresh and happy, to have done what he’s done in the past few weeks and then show up the day after the Preakness and see him lick his feed tub, have good energy, and be cold-legged and sound, that gives me the confidence,” O’Neill added. “Obviously there will be fresh horses; Union Rags and Dullahan come to mind. They’re fresh-legged and ready to go but we’re pumped our horse came out of this race in great shape. As long as he stays injury-free we’ve got a big, big chance.”
Owner J. Paul Reddam said he hopes he and everybody connected with I’ll Have Another will be able to enjoy what the next three weeks bring.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen between now and June 9,” said Reddam. “I am going to tell everyone to try and keep the tension down. Enjoy it. If you want to be in the spotlight, knock yourself out. If you started singing on David Letterman, you probably carried it too far. But this is supposed to be fun.”
I’ll Have Another, who is owned by J. Paul and Zillah Reddam’s Reddam Racing LLC, carries a four-race winning streak into the June 9 Belmont Stakes, having also won Santa Anita’s Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby inApril. He’ll be the 31st horse to head into the Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown, one of the most elusive prizes in sports.
Since 1919, when Sir Barton became the first to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont, only 11 horses have managed to sweep all three races, most recently in 1978 when Affirmed beat archrival Alydar by a head in the “Test of the Champion.”
Five years earlier, on June 9, 1973, Secretariat became the first horse since Citation in 1948 to win the Triple Crown, with his 31-length Belmont triumph ending a 25-year drought; in 1977 Seattle Slew became the first undefeated Triple Crown winner with his Belmont victory running his record to 9-0.
Completing the roster of Triple Crown Champions are Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), and Assault (1946).
Beyond the 11 Triple Crown winners, the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes has tripped up 19 Triple Crown hopefuls, most recently Big Brown, who did not finish behind longshot winner Da’Tara in 2008.
A strong contingent of horses is lining up to attempt to spoil I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown bid when the three-year-olds assemble at Belmont Park on June 9 for the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion.”
Chadds Ford Stable’s Union Rags will return to the site of his 5 1/4- length win in last October’s Grade 1 Champagne Stakes as he looks to regain the winning thread following a pair of tough trips when third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on Mar. 31 and seventh in the Derby on May 5.
He is unbeaten in New York, having taken the Grade 2 Three Chimneys Saratoga Special by 7 1/4 lengths. Union Rags also sports a triumph in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park earlier this year.
Dullahan, owned by Donegal Racing, fell 1 3/4 lengths short of emulating his half-brother Mine That Bird when he finished third in the Kentucky Derby. He has a pair of Grade 1 victories over Keeneland’s Polytrack to his credit, having won the Breeders’ Futurity in October and the Blue Grass Stakes on Apr. 14.
Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams’ Rousing Sermon and Godolphin Stables’ Alpha complete the list of horses who may go directly to the Belmont Stakes after competing in the Kentucky Derby. Rousing Sermon and Alpha finished eighth and 12th, respectively, in the Derby.
Optimizer, 11th in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness for owner Bluegrass Hall, is probable to take another shot at I’ll Have Another.
Paynter, a winner of a Pimlico allowance on the Preakness undercard for owner Zayat Stables, has faced I’ll Have Another once before. In his second start, Paynter was fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, won by I’ll Have Another, and then was second in the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs.
The list of horses who are slated to make their first Triple Crown start in the Belmont Stakes also includes Antigun, winner of a Churchill Downs optional claimer on May 5; Five Sixteen, fourth in an Aqueduct allowance on April 18; Guyana Star Dweej, runner up in a Belmont optional claimer on April 27; Street Life, third in the Peter Pan; and Unstoppable U, who is unbeaten and untested in two starts in New York.
Big Memorial Day card
While anticipation for the June 9 Belmont Stakes has already started to build, the Memorial Day weekend races at Belmont Park are not to be overlooked. Belmont will present seven stakes between May 26 and 28, with the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap serving on Memorial Day Monday, May 28, as the weekend’s climax.
To Honor and Serve, a leading contender for the Met Mile, completed major preparations for the race with a 1:00.03 five-furlong breeze over the Belmont training track on Sunday. The Live Oak plantation homebred has won four of his last five, including his two most recent starts, the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack in November and the Grade 3 Westchester Handicap over the Met Mile’s course and distance on Apr. 28.
The Memorial Day card will feature the Met Mile and three other graded stakes. Trainer Todd Pletcher could have starters in all three Grade 1s on the card, as he plans to run Caixa Eletronica in the Met Mile and Awesome Maria in the Ogden Phipps Handicap, with Broadway’s Alibi under consideration for the Grade 1, $300,000 Acorn Stakes.
Caixa Eletronica, claimed for $62,500 by Todd Pletcher on behalf of owner Mike Repole in 2011, pushed his earnings comfortably over the $1 million mark when he won the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic on Apr. 14 in his most recent start. Third in last year’s Met Mile, the son of Arromanches seeks his first Grade 1 win.
Awesome Maria is riding a sixrace winning streak, including a score in the 2011 edition of the Phipps. A non-displaced condylar fracture forced her to miss eight months of racing following the 2011 Phipps before she returned at Gulfstream Park to win the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap and Grade 3 Rampart Handicap.
Broadway’s Alibi, victorious in the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream and Grade 3 Comely Stakes at Aqueduct, was second by three-quarters of a length in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4. Like the Forward Gal and the Comely, the onemile Acorn will be contested around one turn.
“We just need to assess the breeze and see if she’s ready to run back [in the Acorn],” said Pletcher. “There are 24 days between the Oaks and the Acorn. Or we could wait for the Mother Goose. It’s a mile and a sixteenth, and she showed it’s well within her scope.”