Early Look at I'll Have Another and the Rest of the 2012 Belmont Stakes Field

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Early Look at I'll Have Another and the Rest of the 2012 Belmont Stakes Field
Al Bello/Getty Images

I'll Have Another has a chance to win the first Tripe Crown since 1978.  This is the 12th time since Affirmed last pulled off the incredible feat that a horse has won the first two legs.

I’ll Have Another has a legitimate chance of pulling it off and ending the long, painful drought. To do that, though, he’ll have to beat what is shaping up to be a reasonably large field in the Belmont Stakes.

As many as 13 other horses are pointing to the race. Some are impressive — like Kentucky Derby morning line favorite Union Rags. Others are far less frightening.

As striking as who is joining I’ll Have Another, though, is who isn’t — after an epic rivalry in two races Bodemeister will stay in the sidelines for this one. He’ll be sorely missed, but the 2012 Belmont Stakes field should still be a strong one.

Here are the horses that are considered possible for the 2012 Belmont Stakes at this early stage:

 

Iron horses

 

I’ll Have Another

 

I had my doubts about this horse heading into the Preakness. More than doubts, really — I was certain he was only the second-best horse in the race. He proved that wasn’t the case, though, with an incredible performance in the Preakness.

He has the breeding to handle the Belmont distance. Young jockey Mario Gutierrez should be out of his element, but he has been masterful and seems unfazed by everything. Trainer Doug O’Neill is in new territory — running in his first Belmont three weeks after his first Preakness — but he is a talented, accomplished guy.

This horse has what it takes.

 

Optimizer

 

D. Wayne Lukas is a living legend of the sport, and has done so much that he can now do whatever he wants.

I don’t really see why he wants to run this horse in the Belmont, though.

He insists that the distance will suit him, and that he is feeling strong. The biggest problem, though, is that he just hasn’t been fast enough to be a threat in the first two races. Not even close.

 

Creative Cause

I don’t think this horse will be entered, but I put him here because the trainer still thinks it is possible. He was a solid third in the Preakness, but he was so far behind the top two — and tiring so badly — that it’s hard to see him as a real threat here.

 

Derby horses back for more

 

Alpha

 

Alpha was a serious disappointment in the Derby — a non-factor. He should handle the distance, though, and he was improving dramatically with each race before the Derby. He could be a factor.

 

Dullahan

 

The Blue Grass winner was a strong third in the Derby. He would have been a popular pick in the Preakness — the likely third choice — but he was pointed to this race instead.

I would have liked to have seen him in the second jewel, but I have nothing but respect for Trainer Dale Romans and I admire his patience. This should be a good spot for him, and he will contend.

Javier Castellano gets the mount in this one after Kent Desormeaux’s freefall continues. Desormeaux rode him in Kentucky, but he failed a breathalyzer test before the Preakness, and has lost several mounts since.

 

Rousing Sermon

This horse was eighth in the Derby, but most people have probably forgotten about him already. His breeding in intriguing, but he needs to be dramatically better to contend here. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer wins races in Northern California at a remarkable rate, but he is far less effective elsewhere.

 

Union Rags

 

This horse will almost certainly be the second choice in the Belmont, and he’ll draw an enormous amount of money. That’s good news in my eyes because it will help I’ll Have Another’s price stay at least somewhat reasonable. There are a lot of people who like this horse more than I do.

 

New faces

 

Atigun

 

After finishing fifth in the Arkansas Derby behind Bodemeister, this horse came back and won impressively on the Kentucky Derby undercard. That was just an optional claiming race, though, so this is a massive step up in class.

He doesn’t scare me.

 

Five Sixteen

 

He hasn’t run since April 18 when he was fourth in an allowance race at Aqueduct. If he runs here it will purely be because of vanity on the part of his connections.

The only interesting thing about him is that he is the son of the great Invasor — the first crop of three-year-olds from that stud.

 

Guyana Star Dweej

 

This horse was pointed to the Preakness until a late change of mind. That was a good thing because he had absolutely no business being in that race. He belongs in this one even less.

 

Paynter

 

Bodemeister isn’t going to be here, but his connections will.

Bob Baffert and Mike Smith won an allowance race on the Preakness undercard in very easy fashion with this horse. It’s hard to get too excited about him, though — three races back he was a distant fourth in the Santa Anita Derby behind I’ll Have Another.

 

Stealcase

 

The son of Lawyer Ron was third in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs last time out — one spot behind Paynter. Before that he was way behind Went the Day Well in the Spiral and Hansen in the Gotham.

I like his breeding, but I really don’t think he’s good enough.

 

Street Life

 

This horse opened a lot of eyes back in February with a maiden win sealed with an incredible stretch drive. He hasn’t capitalized on the potential shown there yet, though, and was an underwhelming third in the Peter Pan at Belmont last time out.

 

Unstoppable U

 

The good news is that he has won his two races easily, and both have been in New York. The bad news is that he has beaten no one, he has only run a mile, and he is wildly inexperienced.

He may prove to be a strong horse, but this seems like a ridiculously ambitious spot for him.

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