Doug O'Neill added the second jewel of the 2012 Triple Crown to his collection Saturday, as I'll Have Another charged past Bodemeister to win the Preakness Stakes by barely a head. Having won over 1,600 races in his career, can O'Neill complete the sweep in three weeks at Belmont?
With a less crowded field, 11 compared to 20 for the Kentucky Derby, both horses broke out of the gate cleanly and avoided any problems around the track. At a mile and 3/16ths, the pace was slower, in fact a full two-seconds off the Derby pace at the half-mile mark.
Bodemeister led the pack throughout, but I'll Have Another was never more than two lengths behind. At the stretch, Mario Gutierrez pushed his colt forward and with steely determination, edged ahead of Mike Smith with just two strides left to the wire.
O'Neill has been training horses since 1994 and has had tremendous success over the course of his career, including three Breeders' Cup wins. Still, his years have not been without controversy. In the last eight years, O'Neill has been fined seven times for therapeutic drug violations. According to the New York Times, the state of New York is currently conducting an investigation regarding this same issue.
With 12 medication violations and alleged higher rate of injuries to his horses, O'Neill is fighting back, but if he loses his case related to "milkshaking" his animals then he will face fines and possible suspension in New York. With the Triple Crown at stake, chances are his case won't be considered until after the Belmont is run.
For now, O'Neill must focus forward to the 1.5 mile Belmont Stakes and avoid distractions that come with extra scrutiny for any trainer that is facing Triple Crown fame. All he and Gutierrez can hope is that their colt who came out of obscurity pre-Derby has the stamina for one more win and racing immortality.