Haskin's Preakness Report: I'll Have Another Triple Crown

Each year, we go through the same routine, analyzing the winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in an attempt to convince ourselves that he is the next Triple Crown winner.

We compile all his attributes, enhance his strong points, and usually deduce that he can indeed accomplish racing’s most elusive feat. We start to get excited, counting down the days to the Preakness (gr, I) and ultimately the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). But then comes the rude awakening, whether it be at Pimlico or Belmont Park. We painfully discover that we overlooked something; those seemingly insignificant weaknesses that caused him to run into that proverbial brick wall. And that brick wall can manifest itself in several ways. The Preakness was too short; the Belmont was too long. The track was too hard; the track was too soft. The pace was too fast; the pace was too slow. The turns were too tight; the turns were too wide. Or perhaps some new shooter shows up who is fresh and sharp and primed to spoil the celebration. And so it continues – 10 years, 20 years, 30 years and climbing.

Well, this year is different. This year we’re going to go about it the opposite way. Forget about I’ll Have Another’s strengths. We’ve already discussed those on the Derby trail each week and have concluded that he has all the attributes to win not only the Derby, but the Preakness and Belmont as well. So that leaves his weaknesses. What can prevent him from finally ending the Triple Crown drought?

This is going to sound sacrilegious and presumptuous, but the answer is nothing. At least nothing that he can control. Frankly, this colt has the sharp tactical speed to shorten up in the Preakness and the pedigree to relish the mile and a half of the Belmont. His fate could very well be out of his hands and that the only thing that can stop him is one of the Derby starters who were prevented from running their best race jumping up and running the race of their life at Pimlico or Belmont. And if I’ll Have Another should get by the Preakness, there will be a fresh Union Rags waiting for him at Belmont.

But all of that just may be moot. I’ll Have Another could simply be the best 3-year-old in the country at any distance, and as of now there doesn’t appear to be any reason why he isn’t. But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. His toughest task is coming up. If, however, he should get past the Preakness, we think they should at least start polishing off the Triple Crown trophy, because this colt appears to have all the credentials to finally crash through those seemingly impenetrable gates of racing’s pantheon.

Trainer Doug O’Neill sure thinks he has what it takes.

“He’s three for three this year and he’s shown an amazing amount of will to win as we keep stretching him,” he said. “He travels beautifully, I know he’s got the stamina, and I know he’s got the heart. We just need some luck maintaining what we’ve got now. There will be Derby horses coming back who will be tough and others who are fresh and talented who passed the Derby. But I don’t see any reason why he can’t repeat his current form. He knows how to conserve his energy. Paul (owner Reddam) is a hockey fan, and he always says, ‘It’s only the first period; we still have two more periods to go.’”

O’Neill has left no stone unturned. When he gave I’ll Have Another two months off between the Robert B. Lewis (gr. II) and the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), he worked him long and relatively quick, much like his one-time idol Charlie Whittingham would have done. When the colt had a little stiffness in his back following a work, he used vet-regulated shock wave therapy to help stimulate blood flow to the area. After the Santa Anita Derby, he kept the horse at Hollywood Park without giving him a work over the Churchill Downs track. When I’ll Have Another stepped off the van a week before the Derby, his coat was resplendent and he was full of life.

Once in Kentucky, he gave him long stiff gallops, making him the star attraction every morning, as he tore around there with great energy.

O’Neill continues to do things his way, shipping the colt to Pimlico two days after the Derby, just like in the old days, instead of keeping him at Churchill until the Wednesday before the Preakness, which has become standard practice the past 20 years. He also has decided not to keep him in the traditional Derby winner’s stall in the stakes barn and instead has him in a different barn away from most of the hoopla. And he said he will not work I’ll Have Another at Pimlico, and will continue to give him open gallops.

Another unconventional practice has been Reddam renting a house in Louisville and Baltimore for all the crew in order to keep everyone together and in good spirits and keep camaraderie at a high level. They had barbecues every night in Louisville, and as O’Neill said, “Everyone’s had a lot of fun. In Baltimore, Paul has rented a townhouse with a view of the water and the whole crew is staying there. It’s a great way of keeping everyone happy and pumped up.”

“(I’ll Have Another) has given us so much pleasure,” O’Neill said. “He has a beautiful mind and a beautiful stride, and has the ‘it’ factor of wanting to be the first one to the wire. So far, it’s been an amazing journey."

And there’s a good chance it’s going to get even more amazing.

69 Comments

Leave a Comment:

El Kabong

I was really hoping that Dullahan would run in the Preakness and have a better race, but after reading about what ONeil's team did for little Hope, I'd rather be rooting for this Horse, this Trainer and his team and that courageous little girl. Besides, the sport and the nation could use a little triple crown mania. Another cookie for Mr. Reddam Barkeep!  

10 May 2012 6:36 PM
anita b

Great article Steve,

 I liked the horse for the Derby;

I was concerned about the shock wave therapy (better than drugs though). And treating the girl from Make a Wish foundation is great.

What kind of cookies is it that Mrs. Reddam make? Need the recipe.

thanks again, Steve.

10 May 2012 7:21 PM
fuzzbert

Way to go Team ONeil and Lava Man.  Quite possibly Hope is a good luck charm for the team.  No matter what happens in Baltimore, Mr. ONeil and his team are already winners in my book.  But, a TC would be icing on the cake.

10 May 2012 7:42 PM
ksweatman9

Oh my, we've been here before, haven't we? IF I'll Have Another manages to win the Preakness, he'll be facing the true test of a champion. That being, the grueling Belmont with fresh horses to compete against. Hardly fair, ask Big Brown and Smarty Jones. To make matters even more difficult, this year's crop of 3 year olds has real talent. I'll Have Another has a big task in front of him. I don't see a triple crown this year, but I hope I'm wrong. Good Luck to all.

10 May 2012 8:31 PM
taxistan

I have been eagerly awaiting Mr. Haskins first comments on the Preakness.  I would point out that in his post Derby comments I was first to raise the idea I'll Have Another can win the Tripple Crown. In fact 15 minutes after the Derby by Yum Brands!! I told my beloved [who has learned to love horse racing because of me] that this colt can win it all.

10 May 2012 8:33 PM
Old Timer

Great column, Steve. However I don't see it as "different". You do indeed seem to be "trying to convince ourselves that he'll be the next Triple Crown winner"... and you certainly make some good points in the process.

It sure seems like many of the same statements could have been made for Animal Kingdom last year. Good breeding; tactical speed; excellent trainer and jockey.

Yet hope springs eternal.

IHA still has to get by Bode and Creative Cause (your DD no. 1) et al again in Pimlico.

Then he'll have Rags and the usual cast of fresh characters at Belmont.

One thing for sure... it will be fun to watch. This appears to me to be a great 3 yo crop.

If I sound skeptical, well 30 years has made us all hope that "this year will be different" but trying to be realistic as well.

10 May 2012 8:59 PM
Racingfan

I have to admit I was a little nervous when I posted that I have a good feeling about a Triple Crown this year....  I am always excited to read your articles but I was thrilled with today's! So I take it that you believe he has a realistic shot then? I am a racing history buff and have long felt that we will not see another winner until horses go back to being trained more "old school".  That is what first got my attention with this horse.  Now he was shipped straight away to Pimlico just like the days of old...another plus in my opinion.  My only concern at this point is now reading that he is only going to gallop and not have a work... I hope that doesn't have a negative affect.  Do you have an opinion on that?  Thanks again for all your wonderful and informative work!

10 May 2012 9:01 PM
Dr Max

Steve, I really believe I'LL HAVE ANOTHER will win the Triple Crown this year. He has it all; he has the talent, running style, and the pedigree. And I truly believe he will have the luck that will be needed. Redham's team - the owner, trainer, jockey, and crew - are a team of destiny. The Racing Gods are smiling on them. He will be my solo in the Win Position on all of my bets in the PREAKNESS and BELMONT. I jusy know it! I can feel it! This is going to be a lot of fun and the excitement will build even more after he wins the PREAKNESS! I can't wait!

10 May 2012 9:03 PM
Bill Two

I think he has a great shot to win the Preakness - most Derby winners do, but the Belmont is a whole different story.  Big Sandy takes some acclimation - as everyone knows it's quite different from Churchill, Santa Anita or Pimlico.  Those tracks are usually pretty glib on their big days {Santa Anita is glib period}, but Belmont is a desert unless they water it frequently and extensively.  Even then the track gets cuppy very quickly.  In short it takes some getting used to.  The other big question mark is how young Gutierrez will handle the trip?  Will he know when to move and when to sit still on those endless turns?  Or will he and the horse get lost out there?  Remember, Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed all had some experience at Belmont  - as did their jockeys.  In fact all of the jockeys were intimately familiar with the track.  There are a lot of question marks concerning IHA and the Belmont which won't be answered until he attempts to win the Belmont.  I wish him all the luck in the world.

10 May 2012 9:29 PM
KY VET

101 beyer..............this is something you can only dream about...........

10 May 2012 9:48 PM
iceman92

interesting article! hope iha stays out of trouble in the next 2 races. the only way he loses is if he gets pushed wide on the turns. i'm betting he gets 2 more great trips.

10 May 2012 9:55 PM
Bob from Boston

If IHA wins the Preakness and I were the owner, I'd tell my jockey to go to Belmont Park and get on some horses.  Experience is key there.

10 May 2012 11:15 PM
captainsmistress

I just do not see a TC winner this year. The 09 foal crop is just too good...Also, today's hothouse flowers simply can't take the pressure. Godspeed to all, and safe trips!

10 May 2012 11:29 PM
Bigtex

Steve, assuming I'LL HAVE ANOTHER wins the Preakness, which Derby horses would you anticipate running in The Belmont?

10 May 2012 11:41 PM
quiet american

totally agree w/ "dr. max" ...couldnt have summed it up better! Id love to see this horse take it all the way and I think he has a very strong chance and i absolutely LOVE how his connections are doing everything "old school" .....if it works, why fix something thats not broke!

11 May 2012 1:33 AM
zarvona

 Keep the "bandwagon" in the garage 'til after the Preakness. You might open the door and air it out a bit, but its way too early to be shouting "TRIPLE CROWN WINNER"!!! yet....

11 May 2012 1:38 AM
Matthew W

101 Beyer for 2:01 4/5.....not suprising, this is the same horse who, on Feb 4th, did 1:40 4/5, more than a second faster than did Setsuko run on same card (5y/o, 2nd in past two Big Caps), and it was how he did it, the fastest part of that race was at the 1/2 mile pole, there were huge splits, and I'll Have Another, at the time when the fractions really heated up, he was going from 1 1/2 back to 4 in front and he won for fun--he Beyered a 94 for that one, and they are saying how in the past decade the Beyers have dropped, well, riddle me this: is it not possible that the Beyers have "lost their way", so to speak, I mean,once upon a time there was this mare, or should I say Mare, who would do that, just when the dawldling pace would begin to  turn into a sprint for home, and the fillies up front were still packing heat, this Mare would inhale them, then canter home, and Beyers would come out low 90's, and I would think he's not getting her greatness on the paper--because he can't, and that is a flaw, in my opinion--back to the Derby Winner, if, say, Best Pal ran 1:40 4/5 in his seasonal debut, and he ran faster than good older horses by over a second---would HE get a 94 Beyer? I mean, the Best Pal who Beyered in the 120's constantly?! Methinks the emperor hath pointed his sword at the racehorse, or the steroids, well that's maybe so--all the more reason to adjust his methods, after all, when it's all said and done, you judge the horses by how they compete with who they compete against. I can only thank Andrew, for his Beyer #'s only helped to inflate the odds of 'ol #19---that's cuz people look at the figures, they don't realize that systems don't realize or evaluate when/how a horse runs into the teeth of a race, when they turned up the heat and he did his best running--that should've Beyered high--and they didn't even notice! My wallet thanks you, Andrew, your low #'s will help my odds in the Preakness! That, and all the "he had the perfect trip" lamenters! Yeah, from the 19 he has the perfect trip--it wasn't luck, he is push button, like Affirmed, it's The Preakness that worries me--he wins The Belmont for fun, by daylight---if I'll Have Another wins The Preakness, and that's a big if---he will win The Triple Crown, he won't fail, I think this is a watershed crop of three year olds, and I think I'll Have Another is a really good horse.

11 May 2012 3:12 AM
PickingTheDerbyWinnerSomeday

There is no way Bodemeister should run in the Preakness. 3 races in 5 weeks? Are they trying to turn him into a 5k claimer.....give him a break and then dominate in the summer classics.

11 May 2012 7:37 AM
breeze10

The story of Hope...I, too, have a 12 year old granddaughter with a incurable disease and further complications of such manifesting..so, Hope's story easily led me to tears. She, herself has a "promising" name just as my granddaughter's middle name is "Faith".  Then, there is the generosity of Mr. Reddam...what a great gesture and show of his true appreciation.  Also, the old-school training....THERE IS ALOT ABOUT THIS HORSE and I think he just may very well finish those last "two periods" with victory!  The very best to all...may all stay safe...and relish the moments!  To Hope...hang in there, baby..there just could be a victory for you right around the corner, too.  God Bless you (all)...my prayers are with you.

11 May 2012 7:46 AM
breeze10

Fuzzbert:  I totally agree ! Just,...or...icing on the COOKIE !

11 May 2012 7:53 AM
MikeM

There is a very flattering column in todays New York Times about Doug O'Niell's training methods.

11 May 2012 7:57 AM
Joltman

Here we go again.  Will history repeat itself?  

Given Steve's analysis, that he can indeed win the Triple Crown, I believe the biggest factor is his young jockey. Recall the Stuart Elliots, Desormeauxs, and so many others who 'pulled the trigger too soon' in the Belmont and gasped to the wire, allowing a deep closer type to run them down.  This, in my opinion, is the biggest challenge for any jockey in that situation.  Throw in one with so little experience on the big stage, and you have the repeat scenario.  

The other real chance for him to get tripped up is Bodimeister.  If he has anything left in the tank, he could be formidable in the Preakness.

jm

11 May 2012 8:08 AM
Pedigree Ann

Matthew W -

Once major tracks began to put in new surfaces, all speed figures lost credibility. If I read my Davidowitz correctly, SFs are based on comparison to par times, average times over the track at various distances, levels, etc. New surfaces with no history should have made SFs impossible for several years, until enough data to compute par figures was accumulated; but the calculators kept churning them out regardless. I have said before I found the practice bordering on the dishonest, but hardly anyone seemed to agree with me.

11 May 2012 9:01 AM
Dave R.

Hats off to IHA,Doug O'Neill and Paul Reddam. I think they have an excellent chance to win the TC.

In my opinion, their biggest challenge in the Preakness will come from Bodemeister (if he gets 1/2 mile in 1:11) and Went the Day Well (who finished like a freight train in the Derby).

11 May 2012 9:25 AM
TBDancer

Anita B: I heard it was chocolate chip cookies ;o)

I'm "in" for this horse to take the Triple Crown. He runs like a champ, all stretched out and long-strided. He doesn't get rattled. He listens to his jockey, who doesn't get rattled either. Fingers crossed.

11 May 2012 9:26 AM
Rusty Weisner

I think Hansen running in the Preakness would greatly help IHA and hinder Bodemeister.  Without him I like Bodemeister over IHA.

I think Romans made the right choice with Dullahan.  He didn't have the trouble WthDW did, yet had the advantages of the too-hot pace and extra distance in the Derby. The Preakness sets up less to his advantage.

11 May 2012 9:45 AM
Rusty Weisner

Joltman:

Bodemeister could likely be formidable in the Belmont if he skips the Preakness.  More than any closer like Dullahan, I would say.  Without Bodemeister I would envision IHA winning the Belmont like Afleet Alex did.

11 May 2012 9:56 AM
Rusty Weisner

MikeM:

I don't think everyone here necessarily detected your sarcasm.  

Very relevant, thanks for the reference.

11 May 2012 10:01 AM
Giddyup

I think the way thoroughbreds are bred and lightly raced nowadays makes it nearly impossible to have a triple crown champion. It will take a special horse who towers over the competition to accomplish that feat. With the depth of talent among this years 3 year old crop I would say it will be even more unlikely than in most years.

11 May 2012 10:03 AM
Rusty Weisner

If I were a betting man I would pick between Bodemeister and IHA and put WthDW in the exacta, not boxed.

Factors that would make me pick Bodemeister:  Hansen not running, or a sloppy track.  Factors that would make me pick IHA:  Hansen running.

11 May 2012 10:05 AM
Rusty Weisner

Joltman,

A couple of other things went against Smarty Jones, too.  His pedigree for the distance was questionable, and he was a bit rank, so (as Geronimo has pointed out) he had to fight a hold, too.  I was there that unseasonably cold day.  I had Eddington and some other supposedly pedigreed horse along with Smarty Jones in my Pick4, but not Birdstone (I didn't know enough about racing then to be aware of Nick Zito's particular proclivities).  I was playing with other people's money, though:  I had bought extra tickets and sold two for $500.  Maybe I should go back to doing that instead of actually betting.

It's funny -- I've been to five Belmonts and in three the Triple Crown has been on the line:  Point Given (Clinton was in the paddock with Baffert and, to my own eternal bane, I hit my first Pick4), War Emblem (had Sarava on a $220,000 Pick 4 ticket but lost the third leg when my horse scratched at the gate), Funny Cide (the race that taught me, in painful retrospect, how to bet the exacta), Smarty Jones and Jazil (won the exacta).  I love that place.  Majestic.

11 May 2012 10:25 AM
The Legend

Hey Mike M I bet it doesn't mention that he is facing a 180 days suspension for milkshaking horses? How many horse players are out there scratching their heads and saying hmmmmm I wonder?????

11 May 2012 10:41 AM
steve from st louis

The Derby winner and his connections were able to fly under the radar, so to speak, in the run up to the Churchill race. Now, they have a bullseye on their back and while the New York Times may see O'Neill's training methods in a positive light, the CHRB sure doesn't, with the latest "milkshaking" claims against the trainer. That tightens O'Neill's collar just a bit more.

And if Baffert decides to run Bodemeister at Pimlico, it will be because his colt is doing well. You can wager that his speed will carry the day. I am.

11 May 2012 10:45 AM
Rusty Weisner

Steve Haskin:

I'm probably not the only one here who kept IHA on tickets largely on the basis of your reporting on how he looked and trained.  Didn't win (wrong kind of tickets), but thanks, regardless.

11 May 2012 10:56 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

I am not rooting against him winning the TC.I think the spacing of the races three races in five weeks is what will prevent him from sweeping the series.There is a reason that the owners and trainers dont run their best horses 3 times in five weeks or even 2 times in five weeks.It has nothing to do with reluctance to race,these colts cant withstand all the racing.

11 May 2012 10:59 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

BTW I think AK had a great shot last year because he was not bred in the US.What did him in is he didnt have the speed to stay close to the frontrunners and left himself too much to do at the end of the Preakness.

11 May 2012 11:07 AM
Rusty Weisner

The Legend, steve from st. louis:

Read the article if you haven't.  It doesn't put his training methods in a positive light at all; it performs statistical analysis to demonstrate that his horses break down at something like 10 times the rate of Motion's, for example.  It does, however, allow O'Neill and others to speak in his defense.

11 May 2012 11:10 AM
Rusty Weisner

Giddyup:

I disagree.  I think, besides the competition and racing luck, there have been two obstacles the last decade:  the 20-horse Derby field, and pedigree.  IHA doesn't face either obstacle.

11 May 2012 11:14 AM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

I will have to agree with the Euros on this one until a colt breaks thru and wins the TC.American horses have good blood but bad bone.

11 May 2012 11:16 AM
iceman92

i"m guessing both baffert and bodemeister need to rest for awhile.big chance that bodemeister bounces a little off that great front end spectacle in the derby.

11 May 2012 11:21 AM
Rusty Weisner

Dave R.

I think WthDW is better than Animal Kingdom, with whom he bears obvious comparison.  AK wouldn't have won on this year's track (Nehro would have), and he faced weaker competition.

11 May 2012 11:24 AM
Derby Dew

Steve,

Like you, I've got good vibes that this is the year for the 12th Triple Crown winner.

The I'll Have Another saga has been such a good story what with the O'Neil brothers, Super Mario, the Cookie Monster owner and Hope, the Make a Wish girl.  

Remember, the Rachel Alexandra entourage hosted a Make a Wish girl for the Kentucky Oaks.  And, Rachel went on to win Horse of the Year.  Good vibes!

I'll Have Another has such a beautiful stride.  I love to watch him run.  Indeed, this handsome chestnut, with the modest price tag, could be this year's rags to riches story in his quest for the Triple Crown.  Hollywood needs to start working on the movie script.

P.S.  As mentioned earlier, we need to get the recipe for Mrs. Redman's cookies.  What better way to celebrate IHA's next victory?  

11 May 2012 11:43 AM
Karen in Texas

Bob/Ted----Did you actually write a comment that wasn't facetious?? If so, then I agree 100%. That jockey needs to acquire some experience at Belmont in any way possible if IHA contests the third leg with the possibility of a Triple Crown in sight.

11 May 2012 12:05 PM
deb

I think more and more the triple crown is a thinking man's game.

Wonderful horses though, all of them, and while I really liked Bode, I'll have Another is a real warrior.  I hope he claims the prize. To take the dirt and pull away when he could says a lot about a horse. Good Luck to you all!!

11 May 2012 12:11 PM
MikeM

The reason guys like O'Neill and Dutrow survive is because there is no REAL penalty when they are caught. In fact they get rewarded as owners flock to their barns.

11 May 2012 12:18 PM
hank

Great comments Mr Haskins as usual, very dissapointed that Matz elected to skip Preakness, could of probably got his old jock back, and gave horse a chance to redeem himself, instead go back to home and complain about jock, The TCO2 charge makes things look a whole lot differrent,O'Neil says no but he took days in Illinois for it, Hope Bode wins, Baffert is the best trainer he may not have best horse but by far the best trainer, wish he had Union Rags. I twas really neat to stand on fence and watch Baffert in action, really a neat looking guy

11 May 2012 12:23 PM
Rusty Weisner

Cookies and milkshakes...

11 May 2012 12:31 PM
steve from st louis

Rusty, I hadn't read the NYTimes article so thanks for pointing out  O'Neill in that poor light. In his defense, though,  regarding horses breaking down compared to Motion--that isn't a fair comparison at all as O'Neill plays in the cheaper claiming theatre much more than Motion and O'Neill's stable is far inferior to Motion's in bloodlines. No defense of O'Neill though, especially when he swears on his children's eyes (?) that he has never "milked" a runner in his care.

Also, for a runner to win the Triple Crown, he has to be far and away head and shoulders ahead of his sophomore class, as Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed proved (Alydar not withstanding). And as Smarty Jones and Real Quiet proved in defeat, you have to have racing luck.

11 May 2012 12:44 PM
TripleCrownKaren

My only worry in this whole scenario is the "pending" issue O'Neill and the "milkshake" incident in California.   Suppose he gets a suspension in CA....would Maryland and/or NY have to honor that?   I know everyone thinks the trainer is Mr. Wonderful, but he's had numerous run ins regarding "substances" in horses he has trained.   Not unlike Big Brown's trainer Mr. Dutrow.    You have to worry about horse in their care and if they ARE actually doing what's in the best interest of their horses, who have NO SAY in the matter of how they are treated.   OK....he was kind to Hope and all that....but it still doesn't erase past questionable behavior regarding the welfare of the very animals who are supplying him with his income.   Stuff like this is what get "extremists" like PETA and the Feds looking over our shoulder.     As Nick Zito says.....if we all run on just Hay, Oats and Water......THEN the playing field is level and SAFER for the horses and the Jockeys who put their lives on the line riding them.

I pray for safe trips for EVERY one of these horses every time the gates open.    As a "rescuer" I see the damage done AFTER they've been "thrown away" for not running fast enough or winning enough.

11 May 2012 12:46 PM
Rusty Weisner

TripleCrownKaren,

I don't play the races with enough frequency to know the ins and outs of trainers, so I can't take one side or another re O'Neill.  However, in the article O'Neill mentions $250,000 in lawyers fees.  If he has that money, he has the money to wage a marketing campaign, too.

11 May 2012 1:58 PM
Shutterbug

The article people are referring to which discusses O'Neill's training methods is far from flattering.  It is the third installment of the NY Times' expose on horseracing's underbelly... and it isn't pretty (especially the first which focuses on New Mexico's racetracks).  I must admit that I have been virtually ignoring Doug's horses for years due to, as the NY Times puts it, their "tendency to breakdown", so for this reason alone I looked past I'll Have Another in the Robert B. Lewis stakes.  The article even includes the worst possible indictment of O'Neill, the sad sad saga of Burna Dette.  

But this year one can't help but notice the difference, the change in attitude, and improvement in Doug O'Neill.  Last year he was evasive, as if he felt everyone was his enemy, whereas he started this year out smiling and beaming with pride and confidence.  Then came the beatdown of Mr. Commons in the gr.1 Kilroe Mile by his claimer Willyconker, and now the emergence of the country's best 3yo I'll Have Another!  I believe he is trying to put the negative stuff behind him and do everything the right way, as exemplified by his asking the advise of Hall of Fame trainers on how best to train I'll Have Another.  In fact, I expect other trainers to take his lead and follow his blueprint (and Baffert's with Bode-ster) which will lead to even more future KY Derby contenders being kept lightly raced, further annoying the traditionists of the sport.

O'Neill's most brilliant training tactic with I'll Have Another is pairing him up with the legendary Lava Man.  These two are very special horses, and this is a natural pairing.

Pertaining to the Belmont stakes, I would expect young super Mario to do his homework and come up with a gameplan, exactly like he did prior to the SA Derby when he watched race replays of every contender, and the KYDerby when he studied winning rides at the Museum.  

11 May 2012 2:15 PM
Mister Frisky

Thanks TripleCrownKaren for keeping it real.Doug O'Neill is a personable and likable guy.But,he ain't squeaky clean either.People have fallen in love with IHA deservedly so.This reminds me of last year with AK.Team Valor wins the derby and suddenly Barry Irwin is the only stand up honest guy in the game.Winning Americas biggest race does not give any trainer or owner the moral high ground.

11 May 2012 2:17 PM
UncleStosh

@mattheww - I could have written the exact post. The Bob Lewis was ahuge key race to me. IHA ran all the fractions and stopped the clock in 1:40 4/5ths. A month later CC runs the SanFelipe(1:41 4/5) at a slower pace of which he was 4 behind and came home slower and had a slower time only to get a 98 beyer upped to 102! after Bodes wins in arkansas! I had the Bob Lewis as a 105-108 and proffited for it. Also, IHA then validates he is the better horse head-to-head in the SA. Beyer has no clue. Add in that the Wood winner got a 98 for the most embarrassingly slow prep race of the year. If you look at the Wood winners the klast ten years, it is onbvious that any horse that stops the clock in 1:50 and change is not a Grade 1 caliber horse. That race was awful but because Beyer had the undefeated Gemologist rated so high, he gioves it a big score. I am stilll trying to figure it out as Broadway alibi ran a Mile two races earlier, set a legit pace, came home fast while being dialed down and she still would have had 14+ seconds to get another 1/8th and nip Gemologist. Yet he got a better Beyer figure than her. The Wood winner should hav egotten a 83-86 score. anyhow, point is that it is Andy Beyer who has lost his way. No Derby run in 2:01.83 is the second slowest derby in 30 years. Get a grip.

11 May 2012 2:37 PM
ksweatman9

Let the games begin, the horses that are skipping the preakness will have a leg up on I'll Have Another going into the Belmont. To snatch the 3rd jewel in the crown he'll have to overcome fatigue and being body sore to run his best at the longest distance, a real feat for any horse who isn't Secretariat. Up to the task, I'll Have Another? Win the Preakness first, then we'll see what you're made of. The long Belmont will either make you or break you. You know, the Belmont should be the first triple crown race, but then it wouldn't truly be a test of endurance, would it? It's not designed by flaw, it's designed by reason. Whether or not you sweep the triple IHA, come out of it safe and sound.

11 May 2012 3:09 PM
SOUTHBENDFARM

Since Union Rags is not running in the Preakness, I'll Have Another should win this race easier than the Derby.  I also have a feeling that Bodemeister won't run either.  As For the Belmont, Union Rags wants nothing to do with 1 1/2 miles, neither does Hansen.  Bodemeister has only 1 draw back at the 1 1/2 mile distance, and that is that he is out of a Storm Cat mare.  That mare is a double copy mare though for the large heart, so maybe he got the Large heart and will relish the distance.  His phenotype suggests he can get the distance.  While the breeding of the Triple Crown Horses has improved for distance racing, the drawback that hinders our runners is the "so few starts" as mentioned earlier.  That and the trainers runner horses in the Derby that have no shot...Trinniberg.... and the traffic jam that always happens on the 2nd turn.  Notice all the Triple Crown winners came when the field was 14 or less horses.  The Derby should return to the 1 gate and give racing a fair shot at a Triple Crown winner.  

11 May 2012 3:21 PM
TerriZ

I just love to read about how O'Neil trains I'll Have Another. He gives him time to acclimate and adjust to each track. I don't know how any horse can be familiar with the track in just a few days. The horse can gallop how he wants to gallop rather than make him tense and possibly have a misstep.

And then I'll Have Another goes out with his mentor, Lava Man, who demonstrates how it is done.

I hope more trainers will learn from this.

The only negative things about the O'Neil group is their actions in the past with racing unfit claimers who broke down and possible milkshakes. Maybe it's good that this is all brought to the light. I hope O'Neil has learned his lesson and doesn't keep repeating his errors, unlike Rick Dutrow.

11 May 2012 4:07 PM
TerriZ

Changing the subject, has anyone interviewed Case Clay of Three Chimneys Farm? Three Chimneys went from losing the king (Dynaformer) of the farm to having the sire (Flower Alley) of the Derby winner in the course of a week.

11 May 2012 4:13 PM
shaban

What confuses me is that the Equibase numbers in the track program differ by up to 15 from the Beyer numbers in the form.  And sometimes one horse has a better number than a second in the program but the second has a better number in the form.  By the way, I don't know how many people played the whole weekend card, either at CD or somewhere else, but the hero of the weekend was Ghostzapper.  His offspring kicked butt.  I happened to hit the first one early Friday, decided to hop on the train, and won enough off him to cover my pitiful Derby bets.  I've always been a sucker for a Rahy pedigree but Ghostzapper might be my new favorite.  

11 May 2012 6:05 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I just had a milkshake earlier today, chocolate and it was delicious. Absolutely superb. So I don't get it. What's wrong with a good milkshake? Mine was one of the best I had in years. It might not have been quite as good as the malts I got in the malt shop when I was a kid but it was close. Remember those large metal containers that you kept filling up your glass with? And I don't care what anyone says, this is a really good crop of three year olds. We have Algorithms return to look forward to also. I'm glad Gemologist and Take Charge Indy had injury excuses in the Derby because their races were quite puzzling.

11 May 2012 6:07 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Here we are, same time as last year, looking to put the crown on top of another chestnut's head, this time Flower Alley's kid as I like to call him.  I love him, he seems to have all the athleticism, the mind and awareness, knows where the finish line is and wants to get there, and ships well.  Can't ask for much more.  I agree with O'Neill about getting him to the venue weeks prior to the race, I've always stood for that. The more familiar with the surface the better, especially if he gets to Belmont.  I'm sure O'Neill will be a catalyst in instructing Mario on Big Sandy, not to worry.  Mario, as one blogger mentioned, watched all those tapes and I'm sure he will watch Belmont tapes galore and secure mounts there as well.  Gotta conserve energy at Big Sandy and IHA's running style fits perfectly.  Ok, hope they're polishing up the triple crown.  I love the Woodlawn Vase, the Preakness trophy, the most coveted trophy in sports I believe, let IHA get that one first.  But awaiting at Belmont as Steve says will be a rested Rags along now with a rested Dullahan.  I want us to have a Triple Crown winner and be at Belmont for his coronation.  

But for now, I gotta go eat some chocolate chip cookies, I've been craving them ever since Steve's "Cookie Monster" article!

11 May 2012 7:34 PM
steve from st louis

Alex, I would respectfully disagree that the Woodlawn Vase is the most coveted trophy in sports. My choice would be the Stanley Cup. But that's just me, as it is shared with 25 teammates with each getting some personal time. It even traveled to Russia in 1996 with the five Russian Red Wings and was paraded in front of millions of real Reds.

12 May 2012 10:13 AM
Karen in Texas

Whether it's personally coveted or not, the Woodlawn Vase is the most valuable trophy in sports. (That's actually been the subject of several board game questions for years.) It was crafted by Tiffany's and I think the current value is at least $4,000,000.

12 May 2012 12:46 PM
Geronimo2123

"The other big question mark is how young Gutierrez will handle the trip?  Will he know when to move and when to sit still on those endless turns?  Or will he and the horse get lost out there?  Remember, Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed all had some experience at Belmont  - as did their jockeys.  In fact all of the jockeys were intimately familiar with the track."

Bill Two.

Good points. One thing to remember, the horses since Citation that have won the Triple Crown have done so wire to wire in the Belmont Stakes. No need to worry about when to move, just go to the front. Which is what most of those jockets said, too. The easiest way to win a 12 furlong race with a typically slower pace when you have already won the Derby and Preakness is to go to the front and gallop the field around the track.

It even worked for Bold Forbes and he only won the Derby and could not even really get 12f!

Something to think about...but the fact that Big Brown or Smarty lost after being pulled off of the lead is hardly surprising. There are no  big late moves in the Belmont Stakes...Even Big Red went wire to wire in the Belmont. It simply leaves too many things to chance to do it any other way. That way, if you simply cannot last, you go down valiantly like Funny Cide instead of in a bizarre like twist ala Big Brown.

But make no mistake, the next T/C winner we have, if we ever have another, will wire the Belmont Stakes like Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed all did. Pressure and speed duels notwithstanding...

12 May 2012 1:51 PM
Geronimo2123

Triplecrownkaren,

I share your concern on the "Milkshake Man", errr, "Alleged Milkshake Man." Alleged this time, that is...he has been nailed other times, although he swears on his kids (I am not making that up) he has never milkshaked a horse.

12 May 2012 1:54 PM
GunBow

Steve:

I agree, I'll Have Another has many of the attributes one looks for in a horse to make a deep Triple Crown run.  Given he's already won 3 graded stakes this year, including 2 grade 1s, he should certainly be looked upon as the pro-tem leader of the crop.

I'll Have Another's physical tools are obvious; he has excellent tactical speed, nice cruising speed, and can carry his speed a distance.  His speed allows him to work out good trips.  

But what has become apparent in his last 2 races is that this is a horse with the ideal mentality, possessing the professionalism, kindness, and determination of an elite racehorse.  I love how he is able to rate absolutely on cue, conserve energy, and then unleash this energy when asked.  In the Derby, he settled calmly inside of Gemologist along the backstretch, not at all bothered by having that fairly good sized colt looming over him.  No, I'll Have Another just bided his time, cooperating perfectly with Mario's correct assessment that Bodemeister was setting a stiff pace.  Then, when I'll Have Another had to dig deep and reel in Bodemeister the final eighth, he displayed the same focus and courage he did when outdueling Creative Cause in the Santa Anita Derby.

With all this said, I still believe it more like that I'll Have Another will not win the Triple Crown.  The first concern is the demands of 3 classic races in 5 weeks.  We can project how a horse will stand up to the demands, but there's no way of really knowing until we see it. For me, the null hypothesis is that the horse in question will not be able to run 3 "A" races in 5 weeks.  Simply, I believe it more likely a horse will regress in at least one of the races, or lose form completely, or suffer some injury than run 3 superior races over 3 different distances on 3 different surfaces against full fields.

As it concerns I'll Have Another specifically, this is a horse that doesn't exactly have a great foundation, having not started for 5+ months between August and February, then getting 2 further months off before running in early April.  The fact that his connections were concerned about a bounce following the Lewis doesn't inspire amazing confidence that the horse can produce 4(SA Derby included) top efforts in a 2 month period.

To make matters worse, while the Derby winner is almost obliged to have to go on to the Preakness, the connections of other horses can take a step back, assess their horses, and determine if the Preakness, or the Belmont, or both, or neither is in their horse's best interests.  Some of the Derby also-rans that bounced out of the race well and have a skills portfolio that fits historically with the Preakness will be back in two weeks to challenge.  Others will be given an extra two weeks rest and be allowed 5 weeks between races when pointed just for the Belmont.  

Should I'll Have Another get by the Preakness, he will have Dullahan and Union Rags among others waiting for him in New York.  So, he's going to have to take Bodemeister, Creative Cause, Went the Day Well, and Hansen's best shot again next week before being confronted by some more well rested rivals in the Belmont.    

And it's not like I'll Have Another has a large margin of error to work with.  There were 4 horses within just 3 lengths of I'll Have another in the Derby.  And while I believe the trips of some of these also-rans have been overdramatized, it would be difficult to write that they had better trips than I'll Have Another.  What happens if I'll Have Another breaks slow, has to check, is too far off a slow pace or too close to a hot pace?  What happens if he simply is slightly less sharp, or a rival slightly sharper than at Churchill?  To win the Triple Crown, all these questions are going to have to go I'll Have Another's way, and statistically this is unlikely.

13 May 2012 10:56 PM
Greg R

"Bill Two" and "Joltman" :  

Maybe Mario Gutierrez should tie a red flag to the rail at the point at which he should make his move!  Well, at least, mentally!  Make a clear mental note of exactly where the right pole is. That is what Calvin Borel should have done before riding Mine That Bird in the Belmont.  If he had held up until the 5/16, MTB would have finished ahead of Dunkirk for the place and maybe challenged Summer Bird at the end.

Will be rooting for Mario, et al, to break the jinx.  

14 May 2012 2:03 AM
Uncle Smiley

Gun Bow:

Liked your commentary, great Preakness ahead of us.

Your last paragraph sums it all up "what if, what hapens, just plain what"

That is why my Daddy had no room for horse racing.

Too many whats!

I like to say What's Up!

US

15 May 2012 7:57 PM
El Kabong

Wow,

The first thing I thought was, there are racing gods and they are mindful. Hope, keep the faith. This horse is a runner. That was really a great race. I could not be more excited for the Belmont. Barkeep, another cookie for Mr. Reddaam! And Hope and Mr. ONeil. man this is fun.

19 May 2012 10:25 PM
Tiara Terces

Well, by this posting we've had another exciting race with the same two finishing in the same order, and the Triple Crown could become a reality.  We've been disappointed before, but in hind sight, I'd say if the Bid couldn't get it done, the others who failed also were not anywhere as close to deserving the honor. In fact, treating these valuable animals with kid gloves, which is understandable, leaves all of them wanting in my opinion.  When compared with previous Triple Crown winners,  recent contenders have barely been tested.  Secretariat was Horse of the Year as a two-year old. Seattle Slew was 6-6 before the Derby.  Affirmed and Alydar had raced 6 times as two-year olds. (4-2 Affirmed).  Alydar won by huge margins whenever he didn't face Affirmed and did win the Travers by DQ.  IHA is a nice little horse with a great attitude and will to win. Mario is amazing: so humble and grateful and appreciative of the horse. O'Neill is not the ogre the press wants to make him.  His last alleged "milkshake" was in 2010 after the horse finished EIGHTH!  It does NOT enhance or detract from performance.  What's in it? Bicarbonate of soda, sugar and electrolytes.  It's like having a carbonated drink with electrolytes.  Anyway, I hope we do have a Triple Crown Winner, but it does not make IHA compare with past winners through no fault of his own. He just hasn't had the necessary challenges to establish such greatness.

22 May 2012 10:19 AM

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