ELMONT, NY - I'll Have Another won't have a date with destiny this Saturday, as the final leg of the Triple Crown proves to be too daunting a task for this 3-year old colt trying to take on his most difficult race over the last five weeks?
Last November I listened to what Johnny Velasquez had to say about winning the Kentucky Derby in 2011 at the "It's My Derby" event held before the Breeders' Cup series at Churchill Downs. Johnny said, "There are so many factors that go into winning a race like the Derby. From choosing the right mount, teaming up with the right trainer, and all the other variables, especially the health of the horse. You almost have to be predestined from the beginning to claim a race like this. It must be in the stars. Everything has to align." Johnny's right, and I believe winning a Triple Crown is no different.
Despite I'll Have Another's talented performances in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the Belmont track is the longest race at 1-1/2 miles distance, and a jockey and horse need to be in perfect timing to take on the massive stretch of the oval track.
I'll Have Another was coming into this race unbeaten in his last four starts, and he does posses the pedigree that would improve his chance of contending in this 1-1/2 mile race. He showed us in the stretch run at Pimlico, three weeks ago, that he has the tactical speed to overcome obstacles in the final stretch. (That was close!) He displayed a gritty closing ability in the Santa Anita Derby, and proved that he has a lot of fight in him in the Kentucky Derby breaking from the far 19th post, which very few horses have ever done.
He seems to enjoy breaking from far outside positions, and the I'll Have Another racing team has been lucky in the draws obtaining these positions and having the speed horses to the inside left of their colt. The Belmont would have been no different. Out of a field of 12, I'll Have Another drew post 11.
Are you wondering what the buzz around Belmont Park was regarding I'll Have Another's chance to win the Triple Crown? Naturally, the fans, viewers and handicappers alike would have loved to see a Triple Crown winner. But the most diligent fans were already going against the grain of I'll Have Another and choosing Dullahan as the main selection on their betting tickets. The reason for this is that he is prepared and rested after skipping the Preakness. Earlier this week he took in a good 1/2-mile workout with great timing.
Dullahan had a strong win in the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland three weeks before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. His third place finish in the Derby is impressive when you factor in that he was drawn wide in the stretch and was driving at the end to make up ground. His breeding and class will give him an edge to take on the length of this race.
The Belmont Stakes will not be I'll Have Another's race to win, as there have been 12 horses in the last 34 years trying to bid for the Crown after winning the first two legs, but then came up short on the Belmont track.
One thing I've looked at when checking out this field of horses is the fact that I'll Have Another was given a layoff from workouts after the Preakness. Analytically look at it from this perspective; During the early spring meets I'll Have Another was enduring some rigorous workouts going distances anywhere from 6 furlongs to 1 mile. The colt is now tired coming off his last two wins. If he had finished both the Derby and Preakness in top shape his training schedule would have remained intact to keep him maintained at his top level of fitness. However, Trainer O'Neill decided to gallop him out in the weeks leading up to the Belmont and this was something for bettors to consider.
While I'll Have Another's date with destiny won't come to fruition on Saturday and take the Triple Crown, it seems like the stretch is now open for Dullahan and Union Rags to contend with. It's unfortunate this has happened so close to race time, but this is what makes the pursuit for the Crown so compelling.