In his bid to make history, Triple Crown-hopeful I’ll Have Another got good news with yesterday’s post draw and may have gotten some help along the way in his quest to win the Belmont Stakes.
Trainer Doug O’Neill’s horse drew the favorable 11th post, one spot from the outside in the 12-horse field. The location is prime because it keeps I’ll Have Another from getting stuck along the rail early in the race, where congestion can often trap a horse. In a 1 1/2 mile endurance test like the Belmont Stakes, conserving energy until the stretch run is key and an outside post is viewed favorably by most trainers and jockeys.
“We’re able to kind of see how the pace sets up,” O’Neill said. “If they’re crawling, we’ll hopefully be leading the crawl, and if they’re flying, we’ll be sitting in behind the horses flying.”
Lifting the chances of I’ll Have Another was the less than favorable draws of the other contenders in the field. 5-1 Dullahan drew a fifth spot in the middle of the field and 6-1 Union Rags is close to the rail in the third spot. It is a clear advantage for O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez to have the space outside to patiently watch the race before making the late surge that has typified their horse in the Kentucky Derby and two weeks later in the Preakness.
One horse gathering attention this past week has been 8-1 Paynter and owner Ahmed Zayat was pleased with a favorable ninth spot.
“He’s more versatile than people think. He can probably do anything, but it looks like we have drawn a nice post,” Zayat said. “There is a lack of speed, so maybe he’ll be on the lead, but I’m not sure.”
O’Neill downplayed his emotions yesterday morning, but his horse is both a target and the center of praise heading into the last leg of the Triple Crown.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep him from being a Triple Crown winner,” said Jerry Crawford, managing partner of Donegal Stable, the ownership group of Dullahan.
“But after what he has already done, and if he gets it done Saturday, he’ll not only be a worthy Triple Crown winner, he will have exceeded all possible expectations.”
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for updates on the Belmont Stakes. And read this weekend's Metro for a full Belmont preview and betting guide.