I'll Have Another's history as a sale horse has been chronicled extensively during his bid to sweep the Triple Crown. It's a good story because the 3-year-old son of Flower Alley sold for modest prices in an era when the best young horses bring seven-figure or high six-figure amounts.
Victor Davila, who is the head exercise rider for and an assistant to Barry and Shari Eisaman of Eisaman Equine, bought I'll Have Another for only $11,000 from Bookdale Sales, agent, at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling auction. The following year, Florida-based Eisaman Equine sold him for Davila for $35,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. spring sale of 2-year-olds in training. Dennis O'Neill bought the chestnut colt, which now is trained by O'Neill's brother, Doug, and is owned by J. Paul Reddam.
I'll Have Another will attempt to become Thoroughbred racing's 12th Triple Crown winner when he runs in the June 9 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) after victories in the Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I). The colt's unspectacular performance as an auction horse brings to mind the 10th Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew, who wasn't a sale star either, but ended up winning the trio of classic events in 1977 while racing for Mickey and Karen Taylor and Dr. Jim Hill and his wife, Sally.
Ben Castleman bred Seattle Slew and sent him to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky summer yearling sale in 1976. The son of Bold Reasoning, like I'll Have Another, was pretty much overlooked, bringing only $17,500. Mickey Taylor and Jim Hill discussed Seattle Slew as a yearling in a story written by Ed Bowen that appeared in The Blood-Horse following the 1977 Horse of the Year's Kentucky Derby victory.
"Dr. Hill helps us pick out all the yearlings and over a year's time we must look at about 1,600 yearlings and buy 20 or 15," Taylor said. "Seattle Slew was in a sale of a couple hundred, and we looked at half of them. He was in our triple-A category."
Said Dr. Hill: "I thought he had everything it takes, from a physical standpoint, to be a racehorse. The muscles from his back ran strongly into his quarters. The angles of his shoulder, his hip, and pasterns were all perfect. He had good bone and the type of conformation that stays sound. He had fine balance, too. It was obvious that he was an athlete. I certainly didn't foresee that he would be a champion, but I did feel he would be a runner."
In the same Kentucky Derby article, Paul Mallory, who managed Castleman's White Horse Acres near Lexington, also talked about Seattle Slew as a young horse and admitted that he wasn't always impressed by his physical appearance.
"He was coarse-like and a little awkward when he was foaled," Mallory said. "By sale time, though, he had filled out, and we thought we sent a good-looking colt to the sale.
"We didn't feel the price was too good, but we had to go along, considering that he was the dam's first foal and was from Bold Reasoning's first crop, and partly because Mr. Castleman doesn't race colts."
I'll Have Another wasn't the biggest horse, his pasterns were a little long, and his tail looked like it had been chewed on by other horses at some point. But Dennis O'Neill said he was impressed with the way the colt worked in under tack show prior to the OBS April auction. I'll Have Another had a long, efficient stride and he galloped out strongly.
Like Seattle Slew, he's turned out to be one the best bargain auction purchases ever.