I’ll Have Another is bound for the bright lights of Broadway. He pulled out of Pimlico Racecourse on Sunday morning, headed to Belmont Park in New York, where on June 9 he will attempt to become the 12th winner of the Triple Crown, and the first since Affirmed in 1978.
The morning after his victory on Saturday in the Preakness Stakes, I’ll Have Another – who won the Kentucky Derby on May 5 – looked none the worse for the effort. When he was brought out for a bath at 7 a.m. Sunday here at Pimlico, he did not have one nick on him, his chestnut coat shined, and trainer Doug O’Neill reported that he “emptied his feed tub.”
“He’s full of energy,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill will be starting his first horse in the Belmont Stakes. He is doing the same thing to prepare I’ll Have Another for the Belmont as he did for the Preakness. I’ll Have Another, owned by Paul Reddam, arrived at Pimlico soon after the Derby because O’Neill wanted him to get used to the track.
“Getting here, getting settled in, was huge,” he said.
O’Neill said he wants Mario Gutierrez, the jockey who has given I’ll Have Another four flawless rides this year, to arrive early in New York to get a feel for Belmont Park, where he has never ridden.
“Staying injury-free and healthy, and getting Mario used to the track,” O’Neill cited as his primary objectives over the next three weeks.
As for I’ll Have Another handling the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont, O’Neill said, “Horses can get it or they can’t.”
“It gives us a lot of confidence, the way he galloped out both in the Derby and yesterday,” O’Neill said.
Bodemeister, who finished second in the Derby and the Preakness, will not go to the Belmont. He flew back to trainer Bob Baffert’s base in California on Sunday.
The only other Preakness runner who remains a possible Belmont starter is Optimizer, who finished sixth.
Paynter, who won an allowance race for Baffert on the Pimlico undercard Saturday, will run in the Belmont. He was sent by van to New York on Sunday morning. Like Bodemeister, he is owned by Ahmed Zayat.
As of Sunday, a field of 13 was likely for the Belmont. In addition to I’ll Have Another, Optimizer, and Paynter, the field could include Alpha, Atigun, Dullahan, Five Sixteen, Guyana Star Dweej, Mark Valeski, Rousing Sermon, Stealcase, Street Life, and Union Rags.
--additional reporting by David Grening