I'll Have Another bids for Triple Crown
When I'll Have Another narrowly dodged being clipped by a riderless horse that had gotten loose on the Belmont Park track last week in Elmont...
The Baltimore Sun
When I'll Have Another narrowly dodged being clipped by a riderless horse that had gotten loose on the Belmont Park track last week in Elmont, N.Y., he avoided the sort of complication nobody had been talking about.
Who could worry about something like that when there are so many other things that could go wrong?
The final leg of the Triple Crown has proved, for almost a century, to be difficult enough without factoring in unruly horses.
Eleven of the 30 colts that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness managed to win the Belmont Stakes.
Eleven since the last to do it have failed.
On Saturday, I'll Have Another will attempt to become the 12th Triple Crown winner and end a 33-year drought, the longest since Sir Barton first swept the races in 1919.
The bargain of a colt — I'll Have Another fetched a measly $35,000 at sale — has fared well in training at Belmont so far, trainer Doug O'Neill said.
"He jogged great, galloped super," O'Neill said Thursday. "I noticed every day he's cooling out even quicker. He seems like he loves it here, and he's really getting used to the oval and getting used to the footing, and I couldn't be happier with the way he's going."
I'll Have Another will likely be, for the first time in his career, the morning-line favorite. But the Belmont has been difficult to handicap; last year's winner, Ruler on Ice, went off at 24-1. Sarava, who thwarted War Emblem's attempt to capture the Triple Crown in 2002, went off at 70-1. Since 1995, only three betting favorites have won.
The race is long, the shape of the track unique and the dirt surface dry and deep. Which just means Belmont is the perfectly tumultuous final test for I'll Have Another.
Here's what stands in his way:
How will the young jockey handle it?
Mario Gutierrez has shown, so far, an uncanny ability to ride I'll Have Another. He timed his charge on Bodemeister — who will not be in New York — perfectly in the Kentucky Derby. At the Preakness, he again knew exactly when to move and won in a duel with veteran jockey Mike Smith at the end.
But the 25-year-old has never raced at Belmont. Inexperience, at least according to one veteran rider, will be his undoing. Kent Desormeaux, winner of six Triple Crown races and twice the jockey aboard a horse who won the first two legs but lost the third, does not believe Gutierrez will be able to acclimate to the track.
Has O'Neill been too distracted?
On his 44th birthday last month — 16 days before the Belmont and his opportunity to make history — O'Neill was given a 45-day suspension (it won't begin for several weeks, and he could appeal) and $15,000 fine by the California Horse Racing Board. It found that he had raced a horse with elevated total carbon dioxide levels in 2010. And though it ruled that he was not guilty of the illegal act known as "milkshaking," the most common cause of high total carbon dioxide levels, it punished him anyway.
Can I'll Have Another find a way?
The last four horses to win the Belmont and complete the Triple Crown did so by running in front of the pack for the entire race.
I'll Have Another has won a race in that fashion only once, when he broke his maiden in a 5 ½-furlong race last summer.
I'll Have Another won the first two classics by moving into position right before the stretch, but Belmont's sweeping turns have sapped the energy of many contenders.
Is it time for Union Rags to make a run?
Trainer Michael Matz seethes when the subject of Union Rags' past two races is brought up. The promising colt, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and an early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, never found a way to challenge in the Florida Derby or at Churchill Downs. Matz had been frustrated with jockey Julien Leparoux, who lost the mount to John Velazquez.
Will fresher Dullahan play spoiler?
Trainer Dale Romans wanted to take Dullahan, the third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, to the Preakness. But the colt's ownership group persuaded him to wait. And with extra rest, Romans has tweaked Dullahan's training to adjust to the rigors of a longer race.
|Thwarted in the Belmont Stakes|
|The last 11 failed Triple Crown bids (comments by Andrew Beyer):|
|Year||Horse||Finish||Winner||Reasons for defeat|
|2008||Big Brown||9||Da' Tara||Poor ride; caught in traffic early.|
|2004||Smarty Jones||2||Birdstone||Poor ride; moved too soon. Distance too far.|
|2003||Funny Cide||3||Empire Maker||Winner was probably the better horse. Distance too far.|
|2002||War Emblem||8||Sarava||Difficult trip: poor start, traffic, hard duel for lead. Distance too far.|
|1999||Charismatic||3||Lemon Drop Kid||Questionable ride; altered usual style to duel for the lead. Broke down at the finish line.|
|1998||Real Quiet||2||Victory Gallop||Questionable ride; opened huge lead on turn, weakened at wire.|
|1997||Silver Charm||2||Touch Gold||Talented rival ran the race of his life.|
|1989||Sunday Silence||2||Easy Goer||Lost to an equally great rival.|
|1987||Alysheba||4||Bet Twice||Winner ran giant race; difficult trip; trouble on final turn cost 2nd-place finish.|
|1981||Pleasant Colony||3||Summing||No evident excuse; distance too far?|
|1979||Spectacular Bid||3||Coastal||Poor ride; went too fast too soon.|