I'll Have Another could become the first Thoroughbred to complete a sweep of the Triple Crown since 1978 when he runs in the June 9 Belmont Stakes (gr. I). But when he was younger, the colt wasn't one of those horses that everybody just knew from the beginning was going to be successful. Nearly everyone overlooked him during the 2011 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. spring sale of 2-year-olds in training in Central Florida.
Shari Eisaman of Eisaman Equine, which consigned the colt to the auction for Victor Davila, has said I'll Have Another wasn't especially large, his pasterns were a little on the long side, and his tail looked like it had been chewed on by other horses. His work of :10 2/5 for an eighth of a mile during the sale's under tack show was solid in terms of time, but not spectacular.
But Dennis O'Neill, who is the brother of trainer Doug O'Neill, saw something special about the son of Flower Alley.
"I try to be coy, to be honest, especially if I know they are going to be on the cheap side," said Dennis O'Neill of his shopping strategy in an interview just after I'll Have Another captured the May 19 Preakness Stakes (gr. I). "I'll take them out once and then I'll walk away going ‘Oh my God, I love that horse.' And then I'll maybe take them out one more time, just so people don't know (that I'm interested). Consignors are pretty slick and if they see them out three or four times, all of a sudden the reserve goes way up."
With I'll Have Another, "I took him out twice," O'Neill remembered. "The first time I saw him, I was in love in him and then the day of the sale (he was offered on), I took him out that morning to look at him again. So two times is all I looked at him."
What impressed O'Neill the most was how I'll Have Another moved on the OBS track, which has a synthetic Safetrack surface.
"I loved his breeze, the way he breezed," O'Neill said. "He's got the same stride now that he had then. He's just got a big old long stride and he's got an incredible rhythm to his stride. You saw it today, from the 16th pole to the wire. He gets in that rhythm and it's just so much fun to watch."
I'll Have Another also attracted O'Neill's attention because of how he galloped out following his sale work.
"He went in :10 2/5 and (then galloped out in) :21 and change, and he just kept going and going and going," O'Neill said. "He just has such an efficient way of moving."
O'Neill purchased I'll Have Another for $35,000. Trained by Doug O'Neill for J. Paul Reddam's Reddam Racing, the 3-year-old colt has won five of his seven career races while earning $2,693,600. He scored in the Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 5.
Ahmed Zayat of Zayat Stables was a big spender at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training May 21 and 22. He and his team looked at horses in the auction while in Maryland for Bodemeister's start in the Preakness. An agent handled Zayat's bidding during the sale.
Zayat purchased four juveniles on his own for $512,000 and two other horses for $680,000 in partnership with Mike Moreno. Zayat, Moreno, and Moreno's wife, Tiffany, race Bodemeister in partnership. The colt finished second in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness after winning the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) in April. He is getting a rest from competition, so he won't run in the Belmont.
Bodemeister (by Empire Maker) lost by 1 ½ lengths in the Derby, but I'll Have Another beat him only by a neck in the Preakness.
"The horse ran his heart out," said Zayat of front-running Bodemeister. "He had three races in about 35 days. I think it would be criminal for me to run him right away (in the Belmont). My first concern is always the horse. I just cannot see not being able to give him a breather after he has run three races that hard and that huge. Hopefully, we can even race him as a 4-year-old. I want to enjoy him and I want give him the chance that he deserves. He was so gallant in defeat."
As for Bodemeister's racing future, Zayat said: "It will be day by day, but if I had to speculate, I would say the next spot for him would probably be the Haskell (gr. I)."