I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown Hopes Get a Boost at Belmont

05/24/12 9:00 AM

An absolute unknown underdog in the Kentucky Derby and piloted by the relatively unknown 25 year old jockey Mario Gutierrez, I’ll Have Another waited until the last few hundred yards of the Run for the Roses before overtaking Bob Baffert’s Bodemeister in the shadow of the storied Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. Then, in an absolutely unexpected turn of events, the three-year-old thoroughbred trained by Doug O’Neill and owned by J. Paul Reddam employed the identical strategy to win the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes.

Guess which horse he passed in literally identical fashion to win the second leg of the vaunted Triple Crown? Ask Bob Baffert, he remembers, because it was the same Bodemeister that I’ll Have Another outraced with almost no track left at Pimlico to offer him the rare chance at winning horse racing’s Triple Crown.

Most thoroughbred horses only run a race every 3 to 4 weeks, and with the Preakness Stakes coming exactly 3 weeks after the Kentucky Derby, and the upcoming Belmont Stakes only 2 weeks to the day after the running of the Preakness race, these horces are put to the maximum physical test. That is why so few have ever won the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horse racing. It is just such an amazing test of physical and mental prowess on the part of the horse that it is very difficult to achieve this rare accomplishment. But just this week, I’ll Have Another got some news that will definitely help his chances of becoming only the 12th horse to ever win the Triple Crown.

Bob Baffert said that he is resting Bodemeister, and will not enter him in the Preakness Stakes race. That has got to be huge news for I’ll Have Another, who should change his name to “Just One More” since that’s all he needs to win to become a part of horse racing lore. But it took I’ll Have Another longer in the Preakness Stakes to overtake the field, and the Belmont Stakes is a 1 1/2 mile track, the longest of the three Triple Crown races. I’ll Have Another won’t just be racing the field of horses on June 9 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. He will be racing against history and his own level of endurance.

21 previous horses had enough to dominate the first two legs of the Triple Crown, yet failed to win at Belmont. Will this be the first year since 1978 saw jockey Steve Cauthen ride Affirmed to the Triple Crown that we will see one of the rarest achievements in sports? If so, I’ll Have Another is going to have to get past horses like Union Rags, who was a 5 to 1 favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Rags did not race in the Preakness, and will be fresh as a daisy, looking forward to playing the role of spoiler. And just because Bob Baffert pulled Bodemeister, don’t think that he isn’t planning revenge with another horse. Baffert has entered Paynter in the Belmont, and Baffert is a Hall of Fame thoroughbred horse racing trainer for good reason. Paynter will be more than ready to ruin I’ll Have Another’s day.

And remember this. Dullahan almost caught I’ll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby, and it looks like he might have if the track where 1/4 mile longer. That is the case during the Belmont, and that may prove magical for Dullahan, and devastating for the late-finishing Derby and Preakness winner. Optimizer and Alpha are two horses which have to be considered threats to the Triple Crown achievement, and will certainly pay well if they win as underdog long shots. Come June 9 millions of fans around the world will be watching to see if this special thoroughbred will have another victory at Belmont, or will join a long distinguished list of horses who fell just one race short of the legendary Triple Crown.

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