As the 2012 Belmont Stakes draws near, the horse racing gods are smiling on I'll Have Another and his chances at winning the Triple Crown.
We found out after the Preakness Stakes, via the Washington Post, that Bodemeister wouldn't be competing, and now another top contender, Creative Cause, has dropped out of the race, according to ESPN.com.
As far as I'm concerned, those two horses were I'll Have Another's top challengers to keep him from winning his third leg of the Triple Crown. Now that they have both bowed out of the race, it seems like the Belmont Stakes is his race to lose.
Optimizer and Cozzetti are the only legitimate challengers left in the field, and neither of them has shown they have the late kick to keep up with I'll Have Another—especially on the mile-and-a-half track at Belmont Park.
The biggest tests for I'll Have Another have already been passed. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness were run on shorter tracks, and the colt had just enough of a kick at the end to overtake the swift Bodemeister in both of those races.
Is there a horse in the field at Belmont who can overtake I'll Have Another?
Dennis O'Neill, the younger brother of trainer Doug O'Neill, spoke with Nola.com recently about I'll Have Another. He told them, "I’ll Have Another showed a long stride that indicated that he could run long distances."
After watching him run the first couple of races this year, the final test seems to be right in I'll Have Another's wheelhouse. He looked stronger at the end of the first two races than any other colt in the field—suggesting O'Neill is correct in his assessment that he's perfectly suited for a longer race.
Anything can happen once the gates open up on June 9 in New York, but I don't see any reason to believe I'll Have Another won't complete the Triple Crown in 2012.