I'll Have Another's trainer Doug O'Neill speaks to the press.
The Belmont Stakes post positions and entries were drawn yesterday, and we now officially know that I'll Have Another will have to defeat 11 horses to win horse racing's Triple Crown.
I'll Have Another went into lockdown on Wednesday after he was the last of the 12 Belmont horses to arrive at the detention barn four minutes past the 12:00 noon E.T. check-in deadline and moved into his secured barn shortly after the post positions draw was held.
He drew the post position No. 11 and was made the early 4-5 favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and become the 12th Triple Crown champion and first in 34 years.
History tells us that only two horses have won the Belmont Stakes after starting from the 11th post. The most recent one ended a Triple Crown bid, and was the longest odds-on horse in the race's history, Sarava at 70-1 odds.
He ended War Emblem's Triple Crown bid in 2002. I'll Have Another is no stranger at making history with post positions, as he was the first horse to win the Derby from the 19th post.
Dullahan is the second choice on the morning line at 5-1, Union Rags the third at 8-1 and Paynter follows in fourth at 8-1.
Let's take a quick look at what the pundits are saying about the top five betting choices on the morning line odds.
Jockey: Jose Lezcano
Trainer: Chad C. Brown
Owner: Magnolia Racing Stable LLC and Hidden Brook Farm
Best Beyer: 93
Quote from Matt Gardner's article on SBNation.com:
One factor that makes Street Life a dangerous horse in the Belmont is that he appears to be improving with each and every start this spring. It remains to be seen whether he can improve enough in the Belmont to have a shot at a huge upset, but there's no doubt that Street Life is a well-bred and talented colt that is on the upswing.
Street Life is certainly an intriguing prospect.
He had repeated 86 Beyers at the Broad Brush Stakes (Win) and the Wood Memorial (sixth). Trainer Chad Brown added blinkers for the Peter Pan and he improved to a career-best 93 Beyer while finishing a fast-closing third.
He will break from the inner post which has produced the most winners (23) in the race. It will help him save ground to the quickly approaching first turn, but from there he has to fire the race of his life to win.
Jockey: Mike E. Smith
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Owner: Zayat Stables, LLC
Best Beyer: 106
Quote from John Pricci's article on HorseRaceInsider.com:
Although trainer Bob Baffert would disagree, he's not quite as brilliant as stablemate Bodemeister but owns tremendous upside. It takes a special three-year-old to go from a 5½ furlong maiden event to a Grade 1 at a mile and an eighth and live to tell the tale. Not only did he survive; he prospered.
He might not be as brilliant at this moment as Bodemeister but he is certainly getting there. The 5.5 furlongs to nine furlongs jump was when he raced against I'll Have Another and Creative Cause on just his second race.
He gave a valiant effort on a race that he bobbled at the start and had to take the first turn four-wide. Since then he has kept improving and has a 106 Beyer on his last race.
He is working lights out and I think his chances will be pending on the strategy he follows. Mike Smith should place him alongside I'll Have Another, not go for the lead, as there is a fast horse on the inside (Unstoppable U).
I will say I agree with a further quote from Pricci later on his article: "The wild card of Belmont 144." Definitely no other statement is closer to the truth.
Jockey: John R. Velazquez
Trainer: Michael R. Matz
Owner: Chadds Ford Stable
Best Beyer: 95
Quote from AP reporter Richard Rosenblat's article:
All Matz is looking for is a clean trip for his imposing bay colt. After winning the Fountain of Youth to become an early Derby favorite, Union Rags got tangled in traffic in the Florida Derby and finished third. Then he got bumped by Dullahan at the start of the Kentucky Derby, was trapped on the inside and never had a chance.
You could see articles all over the Internet or hear comments from fans on the street ranging from Union Rags not having a shot at winning to saying that he is the Triple Crown spoiler.
But one constant you might hear that points to facts is that Union Rags is one-for-four on two turns, and has not been able to improve on his two-year-old Beyers.
Totally true. But you have to admit that two of the races he has lost over two turns were the ones mentioned in the quote above. And that is the very same reason he has not been able to improve on his two-year-old form.
The colt was the second betting choice at the Derby for a reason. He deserves a chance to prove himself over a clean trip before we declare him a non-contender.
If he gets a clean trip and toils on Saturday, then he just wasn't good enough. But I get the feeling we might be seeing John Velazquez giving Union Rags the same trip he gave Rags to Riches in 2007.
And with the same result.
Breeder: Javier J. Castellano
Trainer: Dale L. Romans
Owner: Donegal Racing
Best Beyer: 98
A quote from Thoro-graph's Jerry Brown on a Ray Kerrison article on the NY Post:
At this point, he’s a few lengths behind I’ll Have Another, but if he’s ready to run his race, the question then becomes whether he is good enough. I think he’s 50-50 to run better than he has to date, he will certainly run as good as he ever has before, He’s fresh, he’s going the right way, I like him in this race and for the rest of the year.
I would agree to a certain degree. Dullahan is a few lengths behind before the race according to the past performances. But Brown was quoted as saying earlier in the article:
I’ll Have Another is the best and fastest horse in the race, the problem is that he ran much faster in the Preakness than he had ever done before, and four [Charismatic, Funny Cide, Curlin and Shackleford] out of the last five horses who ran their lifetime best in the Preakness lost the Belmont. The fifth horse, Real Quiet, ran his race but lost the Belmont in a photo finish.
Interesting fact: if this proves true, Dullahan would just have to be a tad better on Saturday and he should be able to win the race.
Last Sunday, Dullahan worked a bullet (4F - :45.97) under new jockey Javier Castellano (the nation's leading rider) and seems to be loving the Belmont track. He is sitting on a big race, and that might be just enough to spoil the Triple Crown hopes.
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Trainer: Doug F. O'Neill
Owner: J. Paul Reddam
Best Beyer: 109
Quote from Joe Drape's article on the NY Times:
On the racetrack, I’ll Have Another has done little wrong in seven career races. He has won all four of his races this year, including three Grade I’s against the best of those his age in the Santa Anita Derby, theand the Preakness. In each of those three efforts, he demonstrated a grittiness reminiscent of Affirmed, running within himself until being put down in the stretch to blow by his rivals in the final strides.
The only wrong might have been his sixth place finish in the Hopeful last year, when he was beaten by more than 19 lengths. His only other loss was to Creative Cause on his second career start, the only blemishes on a superb record.
He is finally the favorite, and deservedly so. The colt's only questions have to be if he can make it all 12 furlongs, and the notion that he might have peaked on the Preakness and could bounce on Saturday.
Look at it the other way: he might still have room for improvement, which could be a scary thought to entertain if I were one of his opposing connections.
If he does improve, he has to be considered among the top horses of all time, because he would easily defeat a strong set of opponents.
Is I’ll Have Another good enough to take home Triple Crown? He looks the part and fans are craving to see him do it.