I’ll Have Another, the winner of the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and the Preakness Stakes (G1) has drawn post 11 for the Belmont Stakes Saturday and has been given 4-5 odds in the morning line. Should he win the Belmont Stakes, I’ll Have Another will be the first Triple Crown winner since the great Florida-bred Affirmed won the three classic races 1978.
After the post position draw held at Belmont Park Wednesday, Doug O’Neill, trainer of I’ll Have Another, seemed to take a strategic position about about the outside post. “We’re going to huddle up and talk,” he said referring to jockey Mario Gutierrez who will ride I’ll Have Another Saturday. “Being in the 11th hole, we’re able to kind of see how the pace sets up. If they’re crawling, we’ll hopefully be leading the crawl, and if they’re flying, we’ll be sitting in behind the horses flying. Mario is just such a confident rider and he’s so confident in I’ll Have Another. They get along so well, so we’re in good shape.”
I’ll Have Another has been training for the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park for nearly the entire time since winning the Preakness and all systems appear to be go. Although I’ll Have Another has not put in any morning works, he appears to be handling the heavier track at Belmont Park often referred to as the Big Sandy.
“[I’ll Have Another] is doing great,” O’Neill said. “He’s continued to gallop good, his energy’s been good, his appetite’s been strong, and he’s handled this whole journey as good as you could possibly ask a horse. He hasn’t lost a bit of his flesh at all, his coat continues to shine and look great, so we couldn’t ask for him to be coming in to this any better.”
Second choice in the morning line at 5-1, is Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Dullahan who drew post number five. After the Derby, trainer Dale Romans and owner Jerry Crawford elected to skip the Preakness in an effort to come back and make a fresh run at the Belmont Stakes.
“I think [trainer] Dale [Romans] agrees that [missing the Preakness] worked out for the best,” Crawford said after the post position draw. “If we had won the Kentucky Derby – and we thought we would, the race showed we clearly should have – we would have gone to the Preakness. Having failed to do that, if you examine the genetic code of Dullahan and his sire, Even the Score, it clearly mitigated in favor of giving him some rest and coming here.”
I’ll Have Another will meet almost an entire field of fresh invanders as only he and Optimizer (post 10 and 20-1 in the morning line) come into the Belmont Stakes out of the Preakness. I’ll Have Another, Dullahan, Union Rags (Post 3, 6-1) and Optimizer are the only Belmont entrants to have also started in the Kentucky Derby so all others are rookies to the Triple Crown.
Union Rags is the horse to watch in the Belmont as he comes into the 1-1/2 mile classic out of two troubled trips in his last two races. In the Florida Derby (G1) Mar. 31 at Gulfstream Park, Union Rags was boxed in much of the 1-1/8 mile race and eventually finished third behind winner Take Charge Indy. Then in the Derby, he was squeezed at the start of the Run for the Roses and found himself in 18th-place as they passed under the twin spires for the first time. However, Union Rags still made a big run down the long stretch at Churchill Downs and managed to finish a credible seventh.
“Obviously, we have been a little disappointed,” owner Phylliss Wyeth said Wednesday. “ But we still feel Union Rags hasn’t run his race. We had some problems in the Derby … But we still think he can do really, really well, and we’ve switched jockeys to Johnny [Velazquez], and he just had a really nice work.”
Sunday, Union Rags worked five furlongs in a bullet :59 at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland before shipping to Belmont Park Wednesday.
All the Belmont Stakes contenders were required to be in the special stakes barn by mid day on Wednesday.
Trainer Michael Matz said Union Rags, who drew post position 3 for the 1 ½-mile race, departed Fair Hill training center in Elkton, Md., around 7:45 a.m.
“We were the first ones on the track at Fair Hill – we were waiting to get on it at 5:30,” said Matz. “He galloped a mile, we got him back, cooled him out, gave him something to eat, got him on the van and tried to be here before 12 o’clock. The driver did a wonderful job.”
The Belmont Field from the rail out with their morning line odds are Street Life (12-1), Unstoppable U (30-1), Union Rags (6-1), Atigun (30-1), Dullahan (5-1), Ravelo’s Boy (50-1), Five Sixteen (50-1), Guyana Star Dweej (50-1), Paynter (8-1), Optimizer (20-1), I’ll Have Another (4-5) and My Adonis (20-1).
– Jim McCue photo