I'll Have Another has no shot at securing the Triple Crown on Saturday at the Belmont Stakes.
It has been 34 long years since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, and on Saturday I'll Have Another will have the opportunity to end that drought. History is not on its side to accomplish this feat.
I'll Have Another has captured the attention of the nation by winning in the first two legs of the Triple Crown in thrilling fashion.
In the Kentucky Derby, I'll Have Another and jockey Mario Gutierrez caught up to Bodemeister in the home stretch to beat out the second betting favorite by one-and-a-half lengths. The win came as a bit of a surprise because I'll Have Another had long betting odds at 18-1 and a first-time Derby rider, in Gutierrez, guiding it during the biggest race of the year.
I’ll Have Another followed that up with another last second thriller at the Preakness Stakes, catching Bodemeister from behind to win in a neck-and-neck finish.
Those two exciting results have set the stage for I'll Have Another to take its shot at the Triple Crown. But if history has anything to say about it, it will be a different horse coming away with a victory at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
In the 34 years since Affirmed crossed the finish line at the Belmont to win the Triple Crown, 11 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but came up short at the Belmont.
Out of those 11, eight finished in the money and only four of those finished in second place. So that means only 36 percent of the horses that had a chance at the Triple Crown ended up within striking distance at the Belmont.
Recent history does not bode well for I'll Have Another either. The last horse with the opportunity to complete the Triple Crown, Big Brown, could not even finish the race in 2008.
The trouble that many horses have with the Belmont can be explained by the track's one-and-a-half mile length, which is a quarter of a mile longer than the track at the Kentucky Derby and 5/16ths of a mile longer than the Preakness.
Most horses are not conditioned to run the grueling mile-and-a-half track, as they run many of their tune-up races on shorter mile to mile-and-a-quarter ovals.
This is why you have seen potential Triple Crown winners like Smarty Jones in 2004 and Funny Cide in 2003 fade late in the race. This is in spite of quick starts that had them out in front heading into the home stretch only to be caught from behind on the final leg.
Another reason that the Belmont has been so difficult to master is that many talented horses come into Belmont fresh, having skipped the Preakness. Many owners do this after their horse loses the Kentucky Derby, believing that their horse's best shot at glory will come on fresh legs against weary competition at the Belmont.
This is the case in the 2012, as the second and third betting favorites in the Belmont, Dullahan and Union Rags, both skipped the Preakness in order to prepare for the Belmont. Dullahan finished third at the Kentucky Derby and Union Rags finished seventh after a poor start out of the gates.
Both horses will provide I'll Have Another stiff competition in its bid for the Triple Crown, but I’ll Have Another’s starting post could cause the biggest issue.
I'll Have Another drew the No. 11 post on Wednesday morning, which means he is on the second most outside post at the starting line. This will hinder its ability to get to the prime racing position along the rail, meaning it will have to expend more energy on the outside portion of the track to make its way toward the front.
While the spot is advantageous in that it keeps I'll Have Another out of traffic, the extra length that it has to run will hurt it down the home stretch. While I’ll Have Another will be tired from making its move toward the front, horses that have had an easier time along the rail will be fresher for the final push.
To make matters worse for I'll Have Another, history is once again against him because only two horses have won the Belmont Stakes out of the No. 11 post since 1905.
I'll Have Another is the 4-5 betting favorite on Saturday, but if you are smart with your bet, it won't be placed on the favorite.
History and luck of the draw have stacked against I'll Have Another and when the horses cross the finish line on Saturday, Americans will have to wait yet another year for a Triple Crown winner.