NEW YORK Ill Have Another went into lockdown on Wednesday, moving into a secured barn shortly after the colt was made the early 4-5 favorite to win the Belmont Stakes in his quest to become the 12th Triple Crown champion and first in 34 years.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was the last of the 12 Belmont horses to arrive at the detention barn, showing up four minutes past the noon check-in deadline. The chestnut colt calmly walked a few hundred yards down a dirt path from where he had been stabled since arriving May 20 and stepped into the barn with a horde of media tracking his every move.
No complaints, no hurdles, trainer Doug ONeill said. Hes being good.
Whether hes good enough to end the 34-year drought of Triple Crown winners will be decided Saturday, when Ill Have Another breaks from the No. 11 post under Mario Gutierrez. Hell have to contend with 11 rivals.
Were going to see how the pace sets up, ONeill said. If theyre crawling, hopefully well be leading the crawl, and if theyre flying, hopefully well be sitting in behind the horses flying.
Just two Belmont winners have come out of the No. 11 post since 1905. The last was Sarava, a 70-1 shot who ended War Emblems Triple Crown bid in 2002. Ill Have Another bucked history in the Derby as the first horse to win from the 19th post.
Dullahan was the 5-1 second choice and drew post No. 5. The colt finished third in the Kentucky Derby and sat out the Preakness.
Five is as good as any, trainer Dale Romans said. It doesnt matter, going a mile and a half with my horse. I didnt want to be down on the rail or way outside.
Union Rags arrived from his training base in Maryland shortly after 11 a.m. and settled into the security barn, which will be monitored around the clock leading up to the Belmont. Anyone interacting with the horses, including trainers, veterinarians, exercise riders and owners, will have to be logged in and out. The barn was set up as part of last-minute changes to ensure a fair running of the race.
Union Rags was the third betting choice at 6-1 and will break from post No. 3 under new jockey John Velazquez. The colt got bumped at the start by Dullahan in the Derby and rallied from 17th to finish seventh. He also skipped the Preakness to prepare for the 1½-mile Belmont.
If I had my choice, I would have picked a little further out, trainer Michael Matz said. I think the horse has enough speed to be in a decent position.
Paynter is the fourth betting choice at 8-1 and drew the No. 9 post for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Ill Have Another chased down Bodemeister in the closing strides of both the Derby and Preakness. But Baffert sent him back to the West Coast and called in a fresh Paynter to challenge the favorite.
I always thought Bodemeister is a very nice colt, said Ahmed Zayat, who owns both Bodemeister and Paynter. Bob, from day one, thought Paynter was the better horse.
Ill Have Another went for his usual gallop earlier Wednesday morning, and ONeill was pleased.
Hes continued to gallop good, his energys been good, his appetites been strong, and hes handled this whole journey as good as you could possibly ask a horse, he said. He hasnt lost a bit of his flesh at all, his coat continues to shine and look great, so we couldnt ask for him to be coming in to this any better.
D. Wayne Lukas was back at the track a day after being kicked in the forehead by one of his horses. The 76-year-old Hall of Fame trainer sported an ugly gash that had been stitched up. He will saddle Optimizer in a race hes won four times but not since 2000.
Theres better horses in the race, but the times that I have won it, there were better horses in the race then, too, he said.
Trainer Ken McPeek has two 30-1 shots in Atigun and Unstoppable U.
These horses admittedly are not of the class level of Ill Have Another, Dullahan, Union Rags, he said. They havent proven it at that level. So I really kind of need to run both of them to have a real shot.
In 2002, his horse Sarava spoiled War Emblems Triple Crown, winning at 70-1 odds.
Nobody threw any stones at me on the way out, McPeek said.
Nineteen horses have been tripped up in their Triple tries, including 11 since Affirmed was the last to win in 1978.