Doug O’Neill is nothing if not a realist. If he had his druthers, he
would love it if I’ll Have Another is named 2012's Horse of the Year
when the Eclipse Award winners are announced at Gulfstream Park a week
from Saturday on Jan. 19.
But the 44-year-old trainer of the only winner of three Grade I
races on dirt last year--the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and
the Preakness Stakes--realizes full well that voters chronically suffer
from short attention span disorder, and since I’ll Have Another didn’t
race the final seven months of last year, despite going unbeaten and
winning all four of his starts, all stakes, he has virtually no chance
to win Horse of the Year honors against the other two finalists,
Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned and favored Wise Dan.
Despite his vested interest, O’Neill can live with that.
“Obviously, we’re very close to that picture, so it’s hard to be
real impartial, but he’s Horse of the Year in our minds,” O’Neill said.
“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of horse. Anytime you win the Santa
Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, that’s quite a feat.
The horse is a real champion.
“He brought Mario Gutierrez world-wide recognition, and that was
huge in itself. I’ll Have Another was great to us and I think great for
No doubt about that. Now sold and retired to stud in Japan, I’ll
Have Another was within a 36-hour countdown of making a bid for a
Belmont Stakes victory and racing history by becoming only the 12th
Triple Crown winner, when a tendon injury put an end to that quest and
ultimately resulted in his retirement.
Rival Horse of the Year finalists Fort Larned and Wise Dan had
their day in the sun in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, Fort
Larned capturing the Classic and Wise Dan setting a course record of
1:31.78 in winning the Mile. For I’ll Have Another, it was out of sight,
out of mind.
“I do think if you’re not running on Breeders’ Cup day, the
voters definitely look down on that,” O’Neill said. “Because I’ll Have
Another didn’t compete the last half of the year, he wasn’t fresh in
“Still, it’s an honor to be nominated. We’re all going to Florida
and have a fun time. Win, lose or draw, we’re going to have a great
Team O’Neill will take solace with an Eclipse Award for I’ll Have
Another as outstanding 3-year-old male of 2012, but O’Neill, never one
to count his chickens before they hatch, was prepared in any case.
“We should be good there,” he said, “and if we’re not, that’s OK too.”
GOLDENCENTS CONSIDERED FOR MARCH 9 SAN FELIPE, O’NEILL SAYS
Sham Stakes winner Goldencents could make his next start on the
Triple Crown trail in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 9, trainer
Doug O’Neill indicated Thursday morning.
“We’re going to meet with his owners next week,” O’Neill said,
“but one of the things we’ve talked about is maybe the San Felipe being
his next start.”