I'll Have Another, who on June 9 will attempt to become the 12th horse to sweep the
Triple Crown when he competes in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes,
arrived in barn 9 at Belmont Park at 2:53 p.m. Sunday after vanning north from
Pimlico Race Course in Maryland.
“We got kind of held up for about an hour and a half,” said
Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill. “I have no idea
where we were, but besides that the horse was happy. He was just looking out
the window the whole time. He and Lava Man were together, they were just
chatting away the whole time. We were at Pimlico almost two weeks and we shipped
in a week before at Churchill, and now we’re here for the three weeks. So
far, so good. It’s kind of working out for us, so we’re not going
to change that. I think the sooner he gets over the track and gets familiar
with the surroundings..... We’ll walk him tomorrow and then take it from
there. One day at a time.”
Earlier in the day at Pimlico, O’Neill could hardly contain his
excitement as he reported that I’ll Have Another appears to have exited
his hard-fought neck victory over Bodemeister in Saturday’s Grade 1
Preakness in fine fettle.
“Bring it on! We’re ready to go. Super-pumped!”
O’Neill enthused. “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 would 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, Secretariat became the first horse since Citation (1948) to win the Triple Crown,
with his 31-length Belmont triumph ending a
25-year drought, and 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 champions are Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral
(1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), and Assault (1946).
Beyond the 11 champions, the 1 ½-mile Belmont has tripped up 19 Triple
Crown hopefuls, most recently Big Brown, who did not finish behind longshot
winner Da’ Tara in 2008. There were consecutive Triple Crown tries from
2002-2004, with the Bob Baffert-trained War Emblem finishing eighth behind
Sarava in 2002, New York-bred Funny Cide coming in third behind Empire Maker in
2003, and Smarty Jones being caught by Birdstone in the shadow of the wire
before a record 120,139 fans in 2004.
In 1997 and 1998, Baffert-trained horses came up inches short of
sweeping the series, with Silver Charm losing by three-quarters of a length to
Touch Gold, and Real Quiet nosed out at the wire by Victory Gallop in a
dramatic photo finish. In 1999, Charismatic finished third behind Lemon Drop
Pensive (1944), Tim Tam (1958), Carry Back (1961), Northern Dancer
(1964), Kauai King (1966), Forward Pass (1968), Majestic Prince (1969),
Canonero II (1971), Spectacular Bid (1979), Pleasant Colony (1981), Alysheba
(1987) and Sunday Silence (1989) also fell short in their quest for the Crown. Burgoo
King (1932) and Bold Venture (1936) won the Derby
and the Preakness, but did not start in the Belmont.