UPDATE: I'll Have Another has dropped out of the Belmont Stakes. Trainer Doug O'Neill announced this morning on the Dan Patrick Show that the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will not race this weekend out of fear of injury. No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
Metro's earlier story on O'Neill's fears of running I'll Have Another too hard is below:
When he sat down to lay out the training plan for his horse I’ll Have Another, trainer Doug O’Neill decided soon after his Preakness victory to take it relatively easy on his horse. In winning at Churchill Downs in early May and two weeks later at Pimlico, I’ll Have Another already went through a grueling schedule and was in need of rest.
So O’Neill made the decision to forgo a formal workout at Belmont Park and instead do light gallops. With Saturday’s Belmont Stakes being 1 1/2 miles, the longest of the Triple Crown three races, O’Neill’s decision may prove wise.
“He’s doing great. He’s continued to gallop good, his energy’s been good, his appetite’s been strong and he’s handled this whole journey as good as you could possibly ask a horse,” O’Neill said. “He hasn’t lost a bit of his flesh at all. His coat continues to shine and look great so we couldn’t ask for him to be coming into this any better.”
O’Neill is confident largely because of the horse’s incredible work ethic. Last week, in his first comments to the media, he cited that I’ll Have Another “gallops like an average horse works.”
“The amount of energy he puts into his gallops is the reason why an official workout isn’t important in my mind,” O’Neill said.
It can be a dangerous strategy, however, as the lack of a true workout to replicate a race can lead a horse to become unprepared. Dullahan, a 5-1 horse owned by Jerry Crawford and a popular pick to push I’ll Have Another, skipped the Preakness, but had several workouts between his Kentucky Derby run and this Saturday’s race to stay sharp. Few trainers have taken the approach of O’Neill leading up to the Belmont to completely bypass any type of workout in favor of lighter gallops and trots.
But with several fresh horses entering the race, it is a gamble that might pay off.
While it isn’t uncommon for a trainer to lighten a horse’s workload before a long race, some owners and trainers go the opposite route. In 1973, Secretariat ran the fastest time ever at the Belmont after enduring several difficult morning workouts that were designed to push the horse. It was a controversial and unconventional move that was panned at the time, but resulted in the largest ever margin of victory in a Triple Crown race.
“It was a good move because Secretariat loved to run,” owner Penny Chenery told Metro New York. “But every horse is different and you need to find what works. I hope it works for I’ll Have Another.”
» At 5-1, Dullahan has the best odds after I’ll Have Another and is gaining momentum as a potential upset bid, in large part due to trainer Dale Romans bravado. Midweek, Romans told reporters that he wants to spoil the Triple Crown effort, saying “I want to walk out of here with 120,000 people booing me.”
» After running second in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Bodemeister will not run in the Belmont. Owner Ahmed Zayat said this week that the horse will likely run in the prestigious Haskell at Monmouth Park this summer. But Zayat does have a horse in the race, the 8-1 Paynter, who like Bodemeister is trained by the legendary Bob Baffert. The horse’s owner thinks Paynter might be a tougher challenge for I’ll Have Another. “Bob Baffert, [from] day 1, thought Paynter was the better horse,” Zayat said. “He thinks he’s a really, really nice horse.”
» My Adonis is late addition, with a Tuesday entry to the Belmont Stakes to make it an even dozen. Having recently run third in the Cananero II at Pimlico in early May, My Adonis is owned by George and Lori Hall. The couple own 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice. No owner has won back-to-back Belmont Stakes since Meadow Stable had Riva Ridge and Secretariat win in 1972 and 1973 respectively.
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for complete coverage of the 144th Belmont Stakes.