After twice chasing down Bodemeister to win in the stretch, I'll Have Another and jockey Mario Gutierrez are set to run for history. The winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness is off to the Belmont Stakes and his trainer said he's in "super shape."
"I can't put into words how incredible it is. We're just on Cloud 9 (and) it hasn't completely sunk in yet," the trainer of the California colt, Doug O'Neill, told media outside the horse's stall on Sunday. "The party out here after the race was like wow! I've never seen anything like that - everyone so excited about horse racing and I'll Have Another (is now) 2-for-2! I definitely feel the energy and buzz in the air."
I'll Have Another beats down Bodemeister
The colt outdueled Bodemeister decisively in the Derby, winning by a length-and-a-half going away and then narrowly won in the Preakness, edging out Bodemeister with his final two strides by a neck. And his quest to win the Belmont Stakes on June 9 seems to have just gotten a bit easier with the news that Bodemeister won't be going to New York for the race.
Bodemeister's trainer, the veteran Bob Baffert, told media following the Preakness his horse will be rested as part of preparation for the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on July 29. Baffert insisted this was his plan all along, though it has to be considered that had his horse outdueled I'll Have Another in the first two Triple Crown legs that he'd be on his way to Belmont race track.
I'll Have Another: Horseracing history
O'Neill said I'll Have Another, owned by a Canadian, J. Paul Reddam, came out of the Preakness without problems and is confident he has every chance to win the mile-and-a-half race Belmont, the longest of the treble of races. It's a formidable challenge for a horse to compete at such a high level over a short period of time, with all three races over the course of 35 days.
Mexican jockey Gutierrez, who has spent the last 5 years riding at Hastings Park in Vancouver, Canada, said that the horse keeps giving him whatever he asks and his faith in I'll Have Another keeps growing. "It's just all about the horse," he told NBC moments after the Preakness win.
The last horse to turn the Triple Crown trick was Affirmed in 1978 - he narrowly beat out Alydar in all three races - and the 34 years since is the longest in-between Triple Crown winners. Just as there has been 11 Triple Crown winners in history, since Affirmed won all three there have been 11 to win the first two legs and lose the third. Smarty Jones tried for the treble in 2004 and Big Brown in 2008, both winning the first two legs and failing to win the Belmont.
Those numbers, however, don't worry trainer O'Neill. "We're ready," he said. "Bring it on."