A Magic Number For I’ll Have Another?
Triple Crown Hopeful’s Date With Destiny At Belmont
When he goes for a historic sweep of the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes this Saturday, June 9, I’ll Have Another will break out of post position number 11, which may appear to some as an odd coincidence or even an omen.
Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown, and since Affirmed in 1978 became the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, 11 horses have entered the Belmont Stakes with a chance to sweep the classic series, only to come up short.
If I’ll Have Another is to join the ranks of other Triple Crown winners, he’s going to have to beat 11 horses, barring any last minute scratches, who will seek to deny him that spot in racing history in the $1 million, 1 1/2-mile race, which is scheduled for 6:34 p.m. Saturday.
Ridden by jockey Mario Gutierrez and trained by Doug O’Neill, the California-based I’ll Have Another— who is undefeated in five starts this year—was an upset winner of the May 5 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., surging in the stretch to catch the fast pacesetter Bodemeister.
Two weeks later, I’ll Have Another ran down the favored Bodemeister again, nipping him by a nose in the May 19 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.
There’s little doubt that I’ll Have Another will be the post time favorite of the Belmont Stakes this Saturday at Belmont Park on the Queens/Nassau border, where a crowd of about 100,000 people is anticipated to be on hand for the event.
Bodemeister wasn’t entered in the Belmont Stakes, but two of I’ll Have Another’s prime challengers raced in the Kentucky Derby and will be coming into this Saturday’s race on a fiveweek layoff: Dullahan, who finished third in the Derby and will be ridden by Javier Castellano; and Union Rags, the seventh-place finisher who will have a new jockey in the saddle, John Velazquez.
Other than I’ll Have Another, Optimzer— ridden by Corey Nakatani— is the only horse in the Belmont who competed in the Derby and Preakness Stakes, in which he finished sixth last out.
The post positions for the field, which were drawn Wednesday morning, June 6, at Belmont Park, are as follows (jockey, trainer, last race result listed in parenthesis):
1.) Street Life (jockey Jose Lezcano, trainer Chad Brown, third in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park);
2.) Unstoppable U (Junior Alvarado, Ken McPeek, first in a Belmont optional claiming race);
3.) Union Rags (John Velazquez, Michael Matz, seventh in the Kentucky Derby);
4.) Atigun (Julien Leparoux, Ken McPeek, first in a Churchill Downs optional claiming race);
5.) Dullahan (Javier Castellano, Dale Romans, third in the Kentucky Derby);
6.) Ravelo’s Boy (Alex Solis, Manny Azpurua, fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby);
7.) Five Sixteen (Rosie Napravnik, Dominic Schettino, fourth in an Aqueduct allowance race);
8.) Guyana Star Dweej (Kent Desormeaux, Doodnauth Shivmangal, second in a Belmont optional claiming race);
9.) Paynter (Mike Smith, Bob Baffert, first in a Pimlico allowance race);
10.) Optimizer (Corey Nakatani, D. Wayne Lukas, sixth in the Preakness Stakes);
11.) I’ll Have Another (Mario Gutierrez, Doug O’Neill, first in the Preakness Stakes); and
12.) My Adonis (Ramon Dominguez, Kelly Breen, third in the Canonero II Stakes at Pimlico).
Called “The Test of a Champion,” the Belmont Stakes—run at one circuit on the 1 1/2-mile main track— has seen 11 horses win the Belmont and sweep the Triple Crown since 1919—and 11 failed attempts at a sweep since 1978.
Racing’s Triple Crown winners are Sir Barton in 1919, Gallant Fox in 1930, Omaha in 1935, War Admiral in 1937, Whirlaway in 1941, Count Fleet in 1943, Assault in 1946, Citation in 1948, Secretariat in 1973 (who set a world record time of 2:24 in his memorable 31-length victory), Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978.
Those horses who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but came up short in the Belmont, include Spectacular Bid in 1979, Pleasant Colony in 1981, Alysheba in 1987, Sunday Silence in 1989, Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, Charismatic in 1999, War Emblem in 2002, Funny Cide in 2003, Smarty Jones in 2004 and Big Brown in 2008.
For more information on the race, visit www.belmontstakes.com.
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