First on the track at 8:30 a.m. during the special time slot set aside
for Belmont Stakes contenders, Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another had an easy gallop around the dogs
over a sloppy, sealed Belmont
Park oval Saturday
Cones were set eight feet from the rail for the training session, which
saw a number of Belmont
hopefuls jogging and galloping in preparation for the 1 ½-mile “Test of
the Champion” on Saturday, June 9.
As has been his routine, I’ll Have Another was accompanied to the
track by his stable pony, Lava Man, with whom he jogged to the backstretch
before breaking off for a one-mile gallop through the mud under exercise rider
In his only start over an off-track, I’ll Have Another finished
sixth in the Three Chimneys Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course, but trainer Doug
O’Neill did not think the going contributed to that loss.
“He had a lot of trouble in the Hopeful and came out of it with
sore shins,” said O’Neill, who was sporting a New York Mets
baseball cap in honor of Johan Santana’s historic no-hitter Friday night.
“During this whole Triple Crown run, he’s trained over a lot of
sloppy tracks and he gets over it really well. I don’t think track
surface will be an issue.”
O’Neill said the colt will walk through the Belmont Park
paddock and school Sunday morning prior to his gallop, instead of heading
directly from his barn to the track.
As he prepares to move I’ll Have Another into a security barn
that will house all the Belmont Stakes contenders beginning at noon on
Wednesday, the trainer remained upbeat and positive as he and his team focus on
the task at hand.
“With a horse like I’ll Have Another … you’re
under a really strong microscope,” he said. “I think it’s all
just trying to show the public we care for the horses and that when you put
your hard-earned money and you bet on one of the horses you can know
they’re all clean and pure and ready to go.”
O’Neill said that I’ll Have Another’s jockey, Mario
Gutierrez, is scheduled to arrive in New York Monday evening, and that the
25-year-old rider will have a number of mounts at Belmont next week. Among
those is the O’Neill-trained Boxeur des
Rues, whom the trainer is pointing to the 1 ½-mile Brooklyn Handicap
on Friday, June 8 after apparently resolving a foot bruise earlier this week.
“The race starts at the spot the Belmont does, and I think it will be a great
help to Mario to get that under his belt,” said O’Neill. “If
the horse is not right, he won’t run, but as of this morning, so far so
Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese