Haskin's Preakness Recap: Purple Reign

The ominous shroud that has engulfed Thoroughbred racing recently is starting to lift, at least temporarily, thanks to the heroics of a golden chestnut colt named I’ll Have Another, who has come along at the perfect time to remind people that there is so much more to the Sport of Kings than what has been portrayed in certain publications. These publications feel the need to concentrate only on the darkest aspects of the sport, often embellishing and over exaggerating them.

With the daggers of drugs, scandals, and breakdowns being hurled from different directions, overshadowing the beauty and excitement of the sport, here comes this horse and his arch rival Bodemeister to reach out to the national public and enable them once again to experience the power the Thoroughbred has held over us for centuries.

It was all there in the 137th Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 19 – speed, class, stamina, and most of all courage, as a determined I’ll Have Another wore down a stubborn and game Bodemeister, as he did in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), getting up right at the wire to win by a hard-earned neck in front of a record crowd of 121,309. The 8 3/4-length gap back to third-place finisher Creative Cause indicated just how powerful a performance this was by both colts.

Now I’ll Have Another, a son of Flower Alley – Arch’s Gal Edith, by Arch and bred in Kentucky by Harvey Clarke, heads to New York to attempt the unthinkable and unimaginable. He will try to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Ironically, both I’ll Have Another and Affirmed won the Derby and Preakness by 1 ½ lengths and a neck, respectively, and defeated the same horse (Alydar and Bodemeister) in each race.

For the next three weeks, racing will come alive. When immortality is at stake and a new chapter in the history books is this close to completion, people all over America take notice.

Trainer Doug O’Neill and his charismatic band of brothers known as Team O’Neill, owner J. Paul Reddam and his now familiar purple and white silks, and the fairy tale story of jockey Mario Gutierrez have all become embedded in our psyche and are at the threshold of racing’s pantheon. Will those hallowed gates finally open after so many years and allow I’ll Have Another to join the likes of Secretariat, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Citation, Whirlaway, and the other six immortals who reside there?

Whether they do or not, it is going to be a magical three weeks at Belmont Park, and to the victors go the spoils – a likely guest appearance on David Letterman, opening the New York Stock Exchange, a visit to the top of the Empire State Building, baseball games, Broadway shows. And no one will enjoy it more than the happy-go-lucky teddy bear, Doug O’Neill, and his band of merry men.

Not even the constant unearthing and recycling of past rulings, mainly overages of TCO2 (carbon dioxide), which could indicate the distasteful practice of “milkshaking,” will deter O’Neill and his team, which includes his brother Dennis, a cancer survivor who bought I’ll Have Another.

It is hoped that the American public will be informed more of all the charity work O’Neill has done and the time he spends with youth organizations and at children’s hospitals. The rest will play itself out over the course of time. For now, it should all be about I’ll Have Another and the many positive storylines that surround him.

Three days before the Preakness, Dennis O’Neil stood near the rail and tried to put the polarizing response to Doug’s Derby victory into perspective, especially after scathing articles by the New York Times and several other prominent newspapers.

“It doesn’t bother me as much as Doug,” said Dennis, who bought I’ll Have Another at the Ocala Breeders Sales company’s April 2-year-olds in training sale for a mere $35,000. “It’s been really hard on him. For me, I know who we are and know what we do, and that’s all that really matters. This guy was at the Children’s Hospital yesterday and is going to the local Boys and Girls Club today. Is he really that bad of a guy that people are attacking his character on some of the blogs? Can someone that fake do all these kinds of things? It’s just upsetting when they attack his integrity.

“As for the hearings, the facts are just crazy. The science behind it makes no sense. One of the things that can contribute to a high TCO2 level is Lasix and we’ve cut way back on Lasix. All horses generally get 5 cc’s and we give 3 to 4 cc’s. To be honest with you, I don’t even know what a milkshake is. And there was one positive where we had to Google the drug to find out what it was, because none of us had ever heard of it. Another was nothing but Tylenol. I asked Doug why he doesn't fight it and he said it cost too much money. But, finally, he said, 'That's enough,' He's now $250,000 in the hole in legal fees and had to take a second mortgage on his house. So, if he loses this, he's pretty much toast. Some people think Doug isn’t a horseman, but my brother Danny and I had a farm in Temecula for 15 years, and Doug was out there training and breaking horses, and foaling mares. He’s a tremendous horseman. He just doesn’t take credit for anything. I keep telling him he’s got to start pumping out his chest a little bit.”

For Doug and Dennis, it’s all about the team, which adds to this extraordinary journey. In addition to groom Iscencio Diaz and exercise rider Jonny Garcia, there are a number of others on the road trip of a lifetime, including assistant Jack Sisterson, racing manager Steve Rothblum, equine chiropractor Larry “Thumper” Jones, blacksmith James Jimenez, and, of course, stable pony Lava Man, all of whom have traveled with the colt every step of the way. The atmosphere at the barn is electric and the camaraderie is as strong as you’ll find anywhere on the racetrack. The crew even stay at a house, leased by Reddam, in each city.

On that Wednesday afternoon, O’Neill and several members of the crew headed for the local Boys and Girls Club just a short distance from the track. O’Neill gave out Preakness hats to all the kids and volunteers and led them in an “I’ll Have Another” chant. They participated in games of air hockey, foosball, and ping pong, and were serenaded by a girl’s singing group. O’Neill signed hats, posed for photos, and gave out his share of high-fives and fist bumps. But most important, he brought a great deal of joy to the kids and made a number of new fans.

Ken Darden, president and CEO of the Boy and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore, was thrilled with the victory and flattered that O’Neill took the time to say hello to everyone there in one of his TV interviews.

“It was an awesome experience and a phenomenal race,” he said. “Doug is fantastic and it couldn’t happen to a nicer team.”

But along with the fun came hard work. There was, after all, a race to be won, As the Preakness drew nearer, most of the talk was about strategy and what would happen if Bodemeister, who ran a sensational second in the Derby after setting blazing fractions, got loose on an easy lead. By the time Bode arrived at Pimlico on the Wednesday before the race, I’ll Have Another, who had shipped to Baltimore two days after the Derby, already had a number of stiff gallops over the track. As he did at Churchill, he tore around Old Hilltop in a near two-minute lick as if he’s been there his whole life, and it was apparent he was relishing the surface. He just glided over it, running straight and true, while barely making a sound.

On Thursday, Mario Gutierrez showed up and the crew gathered on the apron to watch I’ll Have Another turn in his sharpest gallop to date. As he came charging by the group, all you could hear were two words uttered by O'Neill: “Holy Moly.”

When it had a chance to sink in, O’Neill again was brief in his comments: “Poetry, bother.” He then engaged in his usual round of fist bumping before addressing Gutierrez, giving him some brief preliminary instructions.

“I’d love for you to press on Bode, so Bode kinda starts pulling Mike (jockey Smith)” O’Neill said. “Then back off on him and take a little rest, and going into the turn, go after him and take it to him.”

Bob Baffert, trainer of Bodemeister, had a slightly different take on the pace scenario.

“If they stay with him it’s good, because it means they’re chasing him,” he said. “Mike’s just got to wait a little bit. It’s a three-horse race between the California horses.”

Mike Harrington, trainer of Creative Cause, had the media believing him when he kiddlingly told a reporter asking about his strategy, “Oh, I might just send him.”

“That’s what started all that,” Harrington said. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but all you have to do is plant a seed in the media and it can become a major storm.”

As for his real strategy, he said, “Everybody has the same scenario. Bodemeister is going to the front and I’ll Have Another will be following him, Hopefully, I won’t be more than five lengths off of it. But in reality, the race probably isn’t going to play out the way everybody thinks it is. I don’t know what’s going to change it, but I just feel that it may not turn out that way. Somebody is going to have to go after Bodemeister. They just can’t let him gallop along on the lead.”

Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor International, owner of Went the Day Well, a troubled fourth in the Derby, felt that Gutierrez might feel more pressure going into this race than he did when he was under the radar in the Derby. Irwin was thinking he might just wind up going too fast this time, trying to put pressure on Bodemeister.

“If Bodemeister actually wins this race and runs big off that last race, he’s one of the best horses we’ve ever seen, period,” Irwin said. “And he might be.”

Race day dawned cool and clear, with no humidity. Several of the Preakness starters went out for a leisurely gallop, with new arrival Teeth of the Dog turning in a pretty stiff gallop in his first outing over the track.

After the walkover to the paddock, Reddam tried to appear calm and relaxed as he waited for I’ll Have Another to be saddled. He actually felt the slower the pace the more it would benefit his horse, as it would allow him to stay close to Bodemeister and then outkick him.

“I think we’re training better than Bodemeister is, and I may be wrong, but I feel these three hard races close together are going to get him right there,” he said, pointing to the sixteenth pole.

But even that kind of positive thinking didn’t prevent Reddam from coming down with a case of nerves.

“I was so relaxed at the Derby, but I’ve been a wreck all week,” he said.

When the subject came up what a great time Team O’Neill was having in Baltimore, Reddam said with that familiar grin, “I would trade them having a bad time for a win.”

O’Neill didn’t have much say to Gutierrez that hadn’t been discussed before. “You’re going a mile and three-sixteenths; that’s still a long way,” he said. “Just ride him with confidence.”

But Gutierrez, whom Reddam discovered as an unknown rider after he boldly came to Santa Anita from tiny Hastings Race Course without an agent, has shown in his previous races that he has a great deal of confidence in both I’ll Have Another and himself.

When O’Neill asked him, “Have you visualized you winning this race at all?” Gutierrez responded, “Oh, come on, Doug,” as if to say, “Don’t ask me such trivial questions when I’ve got a job to do.” After all, the two of them were three-for-three together.

With the post parade completed, Reddam and his wife Zillah headed back across the track to the box area. Reddam was excited, but began fidgeting nervously, wanting to get this race over with and find out once and for all if the next three weeks would bring him, Team O’Neill, and I’ll Have Another face to face with immortality.

“For a horse owner and a horse enthusiast, it doesn’t get much more exciting than this,” he said, walking on the grass course toward the ramp that crosses the racetrack. “If this doesn’t get you off, you’re in the wrong game.”

Meanwhile, Baffert and his family and friends gathered around a flat screen TV at the edge of the indoor paddock.

As the horses headed into the starting gate, he said, “OK, take it home…he’s just got to get away clean and then hang up a :24 and change quarter and :48 half.”

The break was clean, with Bodemeister, as expected, going to the lead, chased by Creative Cause, Pretension, and I’ll Have Another, who had to take the first turn three to four-wide. But Gutierrez was able to keep him in a clear and comfortable spot by outrunning Went the Day Well to his inside before the Team Valor colt had a chance to park him even farther out.

“They’re going slow; good,” Baffert said, watching the bunched up field. “Twenty three and four (:23.89); keep slowing it down, Mikey…Where’s the wire?”

Heading into the backstretch, Bodemeister maintained a 1 ½-length lead over Pretension on the inside and Creative Cause on the outside, with I’ll Have Another on the far outside, about three lengths off the pace.

Baffert was looking for a :47 half. “Forty seven and three (:47.68); that’s good,” he said. “I’ll Have Another is looking good; he’s just cruising. The California horses are right there.”

Nearing the far turn, Creative Cause tried to take up the chase and eased his way to about a length off Bodemeister. I’ll Have Another still wasn’t going anywhere rounding the far turn, as Gutierrez began to scrub on him. Creative Cause had fired off his last bullet and it was obvious he was no match for Bodemeister on this day. I’ll Have Another began to inch his way closer, but still wasn’t making up enough ground to threaten Bodemeister.

“I’m getting anxiety,” Baffert said. “Where’s my heart medication?”

The Baffert group, sensing victory, just as they did in the Derby, began shouting, “Come on, Bode.” “Come on, Mikey.” Then came a somber “Oh, no” from Baffert.

I’ll Have Another was now rolling after Gutierrez did a masterful job getting him to switch leads. He went to a right-handed whip. I’ll Have Another was now leveled off and bearing down on Bode, cutting into his three-length lead with every stride. It was the Derby all over again. The wire wasn’t coming fast enough for Baffert. This time Bodemeister wasn’t about to go down without a fight. He dug in gamely and fought back when challenged by I’ll Have Another, who was lengthening the gap between himself and Creative Cause with every stride.

Inside the sixteenth pole, everyone began to sense that Bodemeister was about to go down to defeat again. There was still too much ground left to the wire for Bode to withstand the oncoming I’ll Have Another. With Gutierrez shaking the whip at I’ll Have Another, the Derby winner finally got the better of a game Bodemeister, thrusting his neck in front a stride or two before the wire. The winner had run his final two fractions in a strong :24 3/5 and :19, stopping the teletimer at 1:55.94, which was almost two full seconds faster than it took the top-class older horse Alternation to win the grade III Pimlico Special (1:57.60) by a nose. The beaten horse in that race was Nehro, who like Bodemeister is owned by Zayat Stables (who recently sold a minority share in Bodemeister). For Zayat, the tough beats just keep coming.

To demonstrate just how dominant the top two were, third-place finisher Creative Cause was beaten nine lengths, but still finished 5 ½ lengths ahead of fourth-place finisher Zetterholm.

Baffert, although disappointed again, said only “What a race.” His wife Jill had a stunned look on her face, having just undergone the same gut-wrenching emotions she did two weeks earlier.

All hell broke loose after the race, as a sea of Team O’Neill hats flooded the winner’s circle. As usual, there was lots of hugging.

Dennis O’Neill seemed awestruck, as if trying to convince himself this really did happen. It was if he had come to realize just what an extraordinary horse and bonafide superstar he had found on that seemingly innocent April day in 2011.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “I cannot believe what just happened. To see him do it again, God, he’s a special horse. New York here we come. This proves that anything is possible. I hope it brings more people into the game and at the sales, realizing if I can do it, anyone can do it.”

Shortly after the race, a loud ovation could be heard from the grandstand. The natural assumption was that it was for I’ll Have Another returning to the winner’s circle. But a glance up the stretch revealed that the ovation was for none other than the peerless pony himself, Lava Man, who was heading down the stretch to wait for his buddy.

One person who goes way back with O’Neill is blacksmith James Jimenez, whose father trained the major stakes winner Agitate. Jimenez hooked up with O’Neill 18 years ago when the trainer had only three horses.

“We worked hard every day, and, of course, Lava Man put us on the map,” he said following the race. “We put together smaller claims, and then larger claims, made them successful, and just kept marching on.”

Jimenez says I’ll Have Another was a “studdish little horse” when he first starting working on him, and even had to be tranquilized on occasion, but kept steadily improving as he matured into a professional racehorse.

“He realizes he’s not just a horse anymore; he’s something special,” Jimenez said. “I told Mr. Reddam today that this horse will never lose by a nose. He has too much heart and competitive spirit. He wants to beat you. Some day he’s going to lose, but it won’t be by a nose. I call him an old soul. He’s become so professional I could just put my tools down and he probably would be able to tack the shoes on himself.”

Team O’Neill racing manager Steve Rothblum said, “He goes out and trains and he loves it. He comes back, eats everything you put in front of him and sleeps. He’s like a 7-year-old in a 3-year-old’s body.”

Rothblum is particularly happy for O’Neill, and like Dennis, he feels he does not get enough credit for being a horseman.

“Doug is a great horseman and a sharp sonofagun,” he said. “He had this horse prepared to the second. And he’s such a kind-hearted guy. He’s the kind of guy they should be showcasing, not trying to tear down. When we were walking over there wasn’t a single negative comment from the crowd. It was all positive.”

While Gutierrez was sitting at the winner’s podium, he looked over and gave a thumbs up to a couple standing quietly off to the side. They had every reason to be proud. Juan Lara and his wife Patty mentored Gutierrez in Veracruz, Mexico, teaching him how to ride while helping him in his studies at school.

“He wasn’t very willing with school, but he loved working with the horses,” said Patty Lara, whose husband doesn’t speak English. “We always knew he had the talent and the confidence. He didn’t know a word of English when he went to Canada. He couldn’t even ask for water. But he was always smiling and always confident in his ability. He takes on responsibility and he embraces life. Mr. Reddam and Doug gave him a chance and he took advantage of it. I think he’s magic.”

To demonstrate the responsibility to which Patty Lara alluded, Gutierrez told Reddam after the race, “I have to make sure I get back to Hollywood Park. My agent is going to kill me if I don’t ride tomorrow.”

Reddam proceeded to change his flight from noon to 10 a.m. and get a larger private jet, so they could get him back in time for his mounts.

Reddam couldn’t wait to call his 82 year-old father after the race. He told him, “You know how you always used to get on my case for liking racing and saying it was bad. It’s not so bad now, is it?

Reddam realizes the position he and O’Neill are in now, as ambassadors of the sport. They will be attempting to make history by capturing the most sought after and elusive prize in racing. After a 34-year drought they can provide some much-needed sustenance to the sport.

“Racing needs us to win the next one to put it back on the covers of magazines and newspapers across the country,” Reddam said.

Reddam also paid tribute to Bodemeister, who ran another remarkable race, proving once again he is an exceptional racehorse who would be a worthy champion in most any other year.

“That horse laid his body down,” Reddam said of the runner-up. “He didn’t lose the Preakness; we won.”

It was Reddam’s gluttony for cookies that resulted in the naming of a horse who has become a household name. Now Reddam should have an insatiable craving for only one brand: Keebler’s “Triple” Fudge cookies. You can bet he’ll have another of those.

Anyone expecting I’ll Have Another to show any signs of fatigue following such a grueling race were in for a surprise the following morning, as the colt cleaned out his feed tub, and it took two people to get his halter on. He stood bright-eyed at his webbing watching all the activity outside his stall and attempted to bite anyone who came too close.

At one point, Mike Harrington came around the corner of the barn and asked O’Neill, whom he called a hero, “Can I’ll Have Another spare some alfalfa?” As for Creative Cause, Harrington said, “He came out of the race good. Brokenhearted, but good.”

A short while later, I’ll Have Another departed Pimlico and headed for Belmont Park, where he will attempt to break more hearts. But by doing so, he will warm thousands of others and, along with Reddam and Team O’Neill, will show the world that racing indeed has a heart. How fitting in these troubled times to bring to the American public a remarkable horse who has exhibited time and again the courage of a champion.

All photos by Steve Haskin


Team O’Neill


I’ll Have Another the day after


O’Neill shows off empty feed bin


Grabbing Dennis’ sweatshirt


Thumper finds the right spot


I’ll Have Another bright and alert


Dennis and the mini Woodlawn Vase


Creative Cause looking for company

121 Comments

Leave a Comment:

kittybay

Another great article Steve, thanks!

Hastings Racecourse was vibrating on Preakness day. People rushing to get their Go Mario Go t-shirts, bets being made and then silence when the race started, until the homestretch, and then loud chaos! So much fun!

I hope NBC sends a crew here for Belmont day so that Mario and all others can see how excited and proud we all are of our boy, our Super Mario! Hastings may be a small track, but it has a big heart and all of us backstretchers are family.

Go Mario Go! And I'll Have Another, too!!

21 May 2012 8:30 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Masterpiece.

21 May 2012 8:31 PM
ksweatman9

I live in Nebraska, in a horse racing community. I live a few blocks from Fonner Park. My father ate, slept, and drank horses. The first book I remember reading was Walter Farley's Man O'War, the book weighed more than I did. I grew up loving everything about the sport. Recently in our newspaper there was a large article about I'll Have Another after his Preakness victory. The author laced the entire piece with negative comments about O'neill and stopped short of saying that he probably mixed a few milkshakes up for IHA along the road to the triple crown. I was appalled. Someone unfamiliar with the sport would be led to believe I'll Have Another was drugged and somehow cheated his way into the winner's circle. They wouldn't see the beauty of what the red pony just accomplished. Why can't people follow the golden rule? "If you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all." Best of luck to you red pony, my prayers and good wishes go with you to Belmont and beyond. I'll miss you Bodemeister, you're a heck of a horse. You and I'll Have Another were reminisce of two other great rivals of days gone by. Alydar may be famous for running second to Affirmed, but to me he was second to none. Kudos to you Bode, for the thrill, and for the memories.

21 May 2012 8:46 PM
iceman92

steve-well written almost felt i was at the race myself.

21 May 2012 8:59 PM
zarvona

EMPLOYMENT

OPPURTUNITY!!

DRIVER WANTED !!!

For large recently aired out and washed

‘bandwagon’…

 Please, submit a brief resume and a short paragraph as to why you think you should be considered for the position.

 Send to Doug F. O’Neil or to Mario, the “Iceman”, Gutierrez, Santa Anita, Cal.

 I swear I went the to Maryland Preakness Stakes today being simulcasted at Colonial Downs Racetrack where 3/4's of the way to the finish some projectionist switched over to a relay of the finish of the 2012 Kentucky Derby. It all seems like a dream now.

 2- 2-0-0 !!!!

 Congratulations to the new 2012 nominee for “Horse of the Year”, “THE MAN”, “I’ll Have Another” cookie, please.

Never heard so many women in line cashing tickets in all my life who repeatedly kept saying the same thing, “I picked him because I liked his name!” --Why do we bother to go through 7 months of aggravation and time spent finding 1 in 600 ‘potatoes’ when they can pick him out,--1 in 20, 1 in 12,--in less than 30 seconds??? , it boggles the mind.--

 OK, we can say it now and say it loud,--potential--

“TRIPLE CROWN WINNER”!!! ? ? ?

 Psssstttt…. There aren’t any “Bird Song” bred horses lurking around in the shadows this year, are there?

[[ Someone please check into the rosters of D. Wayne Lucas’s & Nick Zito’s stables for clarification !! for potential lurkers. Thank You !! ]]

 GO BABY GO BABY GO !! , which just might rhyme with 3-  3-0-0 !!!

 Why bother picking anyone else to upset him in the BELMONT for the TRIPLE CROWN. We all know deep down that we’ll all be routing for him just to say we shared a piece of history in history.  

21 May 2012 9:18 PM
robinm

Steve; I love this article!  I confess I didn't have a lot of faith in I'll Have Another, not even after his Derby win.  It's clear he is a tough colt and I expected him to hit the board, but I figured Bode's speed would hold up for the shorter distance of the Preakness and that another horse with a tougher trip in the Derby, Creative Cause or Went the Day Well, would also get the best of him in the second jewel.   Clearly, I have underestimated this colt as he has now beat a very fast and ultra-game Bodemeister twice, most impressively in the Preakness where Bode had every opportunity to turn the tables on his rival. Now it  looks like IHA is on track to be the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years!

I really enjoyed reading the background information on the "O'Neill Team".  I'm impressed with how much of his time Doug gives to the community, and while I don't think drug charges should ever be taken lightly,  for the media to place emphasis on the negative while ignoring the positive is  not fair to Doug and his team and is certainly not fair to the horse or Mr. Reddam.

I also enjoyed your relating of the crowds  reaction to Lava Man, the five million dollar "stable pony".  I cheered like a nut when I saw him leading IAH to the post.  It's nice to hear how much he is still appreciated by racing fans.

If Union Rags comes back to run in the Belmont, I'd have a hard time cheering on another horse as I've been in Rags corner since his win in the Champagne, but if it becomes clear Rags can't win, I'll be rooting home I'll Have Another.

21 May 2012 9:32 PM
Mister Frisky

I see IHA blowing the doors off this Belmont field.Rags way overrated,Dullahan not fast enough,Alpha another big ped horse who will never live up to expectations.The rest are a group of mid level allowance types.It's his to lose.

21 May 2012 9:32 PM
datflippinrabbit

Lovely article Mr Haskin,this horse in my opinion has the best chance to win the triple crown as he is so profesional,he not a Smarty Jones type that will fight the jockey,so it will be very difficult for the other jockeys to race ride him going 12f,Union Rags and Dullahan are fresh and hily regarded,but this little chestnut has a turn of foot as good as any.

21 May 2012 9:39 PM
Ranagulzion

Steve,

This is a fine tribute to the connections and the horse, I'll Have Another. Well written as usual and a great read.

I wish them all the best in the Belmont Stakes. If IHA is good enough to win it he'll be a deserving Triple Crown winner, an instant immortal Champion 3YO colt and a lock for Horse of the Year 2012.

Needless to say, at least one, perhaps two more formidable than Bodemeister stand in his way for the true test of champions on June 9. What a Belmont this promises to be?

Looking forward to more of your observations and insights over the next few weeks.

21 May 2012 9:48 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Another superbly written article Steve.  IHA did it!!!!!!!  The race played out pretty much as I expected and Gutierrez timed it to perfection again.  He's amazing.  All of them are amazing, this all feels right.  I like the owner, the trainer and brother and assistant, the jockey, the mentor Lava Man, and of course IHA himself. This all just has a good positive feeling about it to me.

Steve is amazing too, coming up with these clever article titles and great photos, we've been spoiled.

Bodemeister ran huge, he's awesome as well.  Baffert's comments were comical, he said "I've had enough."

Poor Baffert to watch Bode get defeated like that, it was so hard not to want Bode or CC or WTDWell to win but now we have what I wished for a Triple on the line at Belmont this year.  Whew!  There are so many good ones in this crop it's hard but Bode and IHA have established themselves as the cream of the crop.  

It's interesting that IHA acts older than he is and his farrier describes him as "an old soul" maybe some of Lave Man is really influencing him.  It was said by assistant trainer that they chit-chatted in the van all the way up from Maryland to Belmont, Lava Man and IHA!!!! How cute is that.  I hope NY gave them a proper police escort when they got to the border.

Now NYRA has work to do.  Cookie stands everywhere replacing the pretzel stands at Belmont!!!!!  I can't even wait for June 9th to be there!!!!!!!!!! Congratulations IHA on your Preakness!  Keep it going!!!!!!!!!

21 May 2012 10:07 PM
zdreamer

Thank you for saying so eloquently just how I have felt about those articles about horse racing. In all there darkness, they forgot the beauty, the love of the horse, the good people. Those magnificent athletes that have so captured my heart. Love your writing.

21 May 2012 10:16 PM
Jenny M

I scan the Bloodhorse after every big race waiting for your column.  And now along with your gift of story telling you've included the wonderful pictures.  Thank you Steve!

21 May 2012 10:16 PM
anza

steve,i'm a freak horse racing reader,today, i expend all day catching your post ,you know why? because i'm sick of reading about doug o'neill negative stuff,speed figures and silly stats about the triple crown,i know american people loves to talk about stats (i'm from argentina) but horse racing today need a big boost to bring back people to the tracks and for me doug o'neill will help the matter.it was very refreshing for me to read your post.thanks.

steve,i like to know why you choose baffert entourage to watch the race? because the flat tv that you mention in your post?

21 May 2012 10:28 PM
taxistan

Way to go Mr. Haskin.Maybe the racing gods will give all us old horseplayers what we want--A Trip;e Crown Winner.

21 May 2012 10:29 PM
zarvona

 Another great follow up as always Steve. Keep up all you do, please.

 I admit I don’t really understand why after the Santa Anita Derby with a sharp as eye as yours for horses that you that you didn’t take up the first seat on this horse’s ‘bandwagon’ as I did way back then. I blogged earlier that I thought you were being too loyal to the “BC 4” back about then, and took some apparent criticism for that stand. I said then, “To be the MAN, you have to beat the MAN”, and he just had. I admit I wasn’t that sure or confident in “Bode M” following the Ark. Derby,--remembering “Bellamy Road”-- as I was totally confidant in "I'll Have Another" going into the Kty Derby. The Kty. Derby convinced me “Bodebeyer” will always be the next “Ayldar”, a step away. Had you gotten on ‘the cookie’s’ ‘bandwagon’, you could have undoubtedly put it all in words better than mine and could have convinced many more or our blogger buds than I sure I did.

 One of my brother’s offhand quotes after the Kty. Derby was, …“I can’t believe it, a horse from the Ark. Derby and from California, unbelievable !!!” He didn’t see what I saw in "I'll Have Another" in the Santa Anita stretch run either. It is exactly what I look for in a developing 3 yr. old with suitable breeding for 1 1/2. I tried to put it all in words back then and over the course of our blogger 6 month journey the best I could,… “a 5th gear ‘kick’ like “Curlin’s” that few possess”. Even the “Iceman” mentioned his ‘kick’. Again, had you gotten on ‘the cookie’s’ ‘bandwagon’, you could have undoubtedly put it all in words better than mine. I know you must get busy and small things must get overlooked. Its cheating maybe me trying to influence YOU, “the MAN”. And, much like my loyalty to this horse from back then to now, I do understand your loyalty to “Creative Cause”--lost Cause #2,--as he was my BC Juv. horse back when, where I thought back then that “Union Rags” then was much over hyped, and yet although not winning, looked the better horse from that race. So like you I had had my eye on “CC” for a long time. However, I was willing to be flexible enough throughout the next 6 months to keep my eyes out for others who would knowingly come along. Many Derby horse contenders we don’t see early, we don’t get to see them grow track side or other, and we truly only get to see them only for a few ‘Graded’ events pre-Derby versus comparative competition. They just don’t run a horse 12-15 times pre-Derby anymore like “D. Wayne” does. Then you have to take those few and see who meets breeding requirements for distance. One of my blog entry’s was ‘where do you want to see YOUR preferred ‘distance’ and ‘stamina’ influences come from, etc.  It makes it tough to analyze all from so little and marginal input. Personally, I put a lot of stock in the breeding aspects that others don’t,--the likes of ‘Coldfacts’ adds to my thinking in those regards as do others, keeping me on my toes where I might have missed something a new twist to an aspect--and then go for a horses accomplishments running style and of course speed. The routine does make it hard to narrow down ‘600’ to ‘450’ to ‘100’ to ‘60’ to ‘30’ to ‘20’ to ‘5 or 6’ and or ‘1 or 2’. I also was high on “Take Charge Indy” and wish he had been involved in the Kty. Derby stretch run where I could have assessed his abilities further maybe, as Calvin had him in a fine stalking up about 4th position from the tough to get out of ‘3 hole’. Would have been a little more interesting TC if there were 1 or 2 still outstanding shooters that match the class of “BodeM” and “the Cookie”. But the Belmont itself rarely plays out as suspected especially on tired horses, where I can’t express my sadness over “Smarty Jones” not winning, where I watched a worn out by then horse fall to ‘a bird’, after I had told my brother following ‘the Rebel’, PRE-Kty. Derby that “this horse can run ‘anywhere’, and at any ‘distance’ and against ‘anybody’ in the country, right now”!!. Too bad the break between races wasn’t longer for him. Hoping the same fate doesn’t fall upon ‘the cookie’.

 Anyway Steve, you know of my appreciation for all you do, never can enough be said. My hat is off to you. I May, --probably won’t when the fever strikes,--take off a bit more in the future spending as much time as I do analyzing breeding. And so, being where I think I will just go stand in line from here on and ask the first woman I see to “pick one of the names you like, please”, it will be a lot easier and save me much more time.        

21 May 2012 10:35 PM
Katherine

I have been looking for your article all day and you did not disappoint! Can't wait for the Belmont! It was great hearing about I'll Have Another's personality. I wonder what his call name in the stable is?....Cookie? :)

Seriously I want to congratulate Mr and Mrs Reddam and the whole of Team O'Neil. I think Doug and Denis O'Neil are great and wonderful ambassadors for the game and Mario's story is great too.  Best of Luck and know how many fans are with you!

21 May 2012 10:43 PM
GJU

Loved this article, Steve! Thank you for posting it and the pictures. Cookie Monster (that's my nick name for I'll Have Another)seems like such a character. His expressions are priceless! I sure hope he can make history on June 9th. If he does, I'll have another of your great stories to look forward to! Let's enjoy the buildup over the next three weeks and hope there's even more to celebrate after the third jewel of the Triple Crown is over.

21 May 2012 11:02 PM
Doodge

Great piece!  It was the next best thing to being there.  I loved the mention of one of my favorites, Lava Man.

I'm glad you wrote about Doug O'Neill's charity work.  It seems like the press just loves to dwell on the negative.  Team O'Neill doesn't strike me as crooked.  They seem like genuinely good people.  

Like everybody else, I long for a triple crown winner and I'll be pulling for IHA.  

21 May 2012 11:26 PM
Deltalady

I laughed, I cried, I re-lived every inch of that fantastic race, just reading your wonderful prose.  I bet I have checked BloodHorse 20 times today, just waiting for this article. Thank you, Steve, for always, always putting the heart into the sport, when everyone else it seems wants to pound in the last nails in the coffin! IHA loses nothing in giving a tip of the hat to Bode.  A valiant run, in both races, and what a testament to the CA trained group! 1 - 2 - 3!! Three weeks is a long time when we are waiting for something like this. Please keep those updates coming!

21 May 2012 11:28 PM
Thelwell Pony

Thank you for the great follow-up, Steve.

I want to bring up two things: the first is a big, bratty neenor, neenor, neenor. Having been on the I'll Have Another bandwagon since picking him for the Santa Anita, the Preakness was exhilarating and vindicating. I feel like the Derby win was treated like a fluke, especially by my friends who had Bodemeister, and therefore were bested by my usually spotty handcapping. It was as though IHA had stolen the crown from the rightful prince. A la Giacomo, perhaps? No respect for redheads, huh? Don't get me wrong - Bodemeister is a star. In a different year, Mr. Baffert would be making a very difficult decision about sending a very fast horse to Belmont for the record books... But come on, y'all! How about some love! I'll Have Another ran faster than the fastest horse around. Twice. So there. I love this horse, and that's that.

I do want to touch on the rivalry analogies. I loved the comparisons to Affirmed and Alydar until I rewatched those races. (Alas, that was before my time.) In reality, the A/A rivalry doesn't fit the bill for these two. Affirmed ran more like Bode, the speed horse. Alydar was more like stalking, closing I'll Have Another. We all know that Alydar couldn't get the best of Affirmed in the three classic races, but is a legend nontheless. I think we all like this analogy only because it leads us to a Triple Crown.

So who did we all love who seemed to know, by some gift of the cosmos, the exact location of the finish line and how to get there first while giving us fans just the right amount of cardiac arrest? And is there a rivalry to which to compare these two? I think we have some vintage and much more recent stars to compare to! His style is a lot like Native Dancer's. Sort of like Zenyatta, but never that much off the pace. Definitely that much ON the pacemaker! But I think the rivalry has been most like the one between Havre de Grace and Blind Luck. If they get the chance to hook up again, Bode will likely get the best of IHA at some point, at some distance. Plus, Blind Luck never could get all the respect for herself, which is also the case here. That was a polarizing rivalry also, with each horse's backers never willing to concede that the other horse had an equal or greater amount of talent.

So here's a question to ponder. If I'll Have Another really is "the man" and wins the Belmont, will he be immediately retired? If so, we'll never get to see if I assigned the correct analogous rivalry. But we won't care, or at least I won't. If he can bring us a Triple Crown, I say he's done enough for our great sport.

I love being right about a horse. I'd sure like to see it come to something special. Come on, June 9th! Come on, I'll Have Another!

21 May 2012 11:55 PM
Bellwether

ty for articial & pics...small & studish/with that long stride...HIS time may be @ hand...hope so...

22 May 2012 1:09 AM
Tom Fool

I wasn't on the I'll Have Another bandwagon until after the Robert B. Lewis.  The win was impressive, as was his first race when he broke his maiden (now on You Tube).  But what sealed the deal for me was on Big Cap Day when they brought out IHA along with Lava Man for a public workout and I'll Have Another ripped off a 1:10 flat for 6 furlongs on a warm day in front of a big crowd. Really everything he has done since has been prefect.

22 May 2012 2:12 AM
breeze10

Steve:  Thank you! You make us feel like we are right-there with Team O'Neill! Perfection in your writing!

Although I was not a huge fan prior to the Derby (I didn't even include him in my bet...even though my "Cable guy" warned me not to overlook him), I simply can not see how any horse is going to defeat him in The Belmont!  What a truly magnificent horse!  All, about him, IS AMAZING! The entire team is amazing! My money (and heart) will be on IHA for The Belmont (I have even bought a pair of purple jeans...and, I'm 61 years old!- June 9, I'll look like a damn-fool, but...that's okay!...I'll be wearing his colors!) This horse, this team...has done more for racing than we ever could have imagined!

The very best of luck to all...all stay safe...history is about to be made!

22 May 2012 2:29 AM
egill

Fantastic article as always, Steve! The way you write is how I feel about Thoroughbreds. Between you and Bill Nack...that is the voice for this sport. Albeit heartbreaking and "oh so close" so many times. I am pulling for this horse more than I ever have a potential 3crown. He oddly resembles"Affirmed " and I just love him and his team. The last triple was one won 5 months before I was born. I love this sport. More importantly I love this breed. We need this. Regardless; "I'll Have Another" has proven himself in a year of fantastic colts!

22 May 2012 2:49 AM
ksweatman9

Zarvona, please don't go there with the Alydar comment "always a step away". It has a demeaning tone. Alydar was a champion in his own right. The triple crown races didn't define him as a horse. I always say that there are many things to consider when trying to determine the greatness of a thoroughbred. Alyder didn't win the triple crown, but nevertheless, he was a champion, and he became one of the greatest sires of all time. To compare Bodemeister to Alydar is a compliment, although I'm sure you meant it otherwise. Try to be more respectful.

22 May 2012 3:58 AM
John Boudreau

Another GREAT Article Steve!!>> After Watching the last 3 Crown Winners Belmont Wins>> ALL 3 Went WIRE TO WIRE>> With No Bode,Trinni, and Hansen I Truley think They Should put him Right on the Lead and WIN The Belmont>> He's Got the Speed and you Know he's Dead FIT>>>  Good Luck

22 May 2012 6:51 AM
Stones

I'll Have Another, and his connections, have done nothing to make me think they cannot win the Belmont.

The horse doesn't know the history of Triple Crown failures over the past 3 decades.  He just goes out on the track, does what he is asked and, to my eye anyway, doesn't labor in doing so.

I think we are all seeing something special here but most refuse to believe it, having been burned so many times in the past.

Ignore the past.  Examine (and enjoy!!!) the present.  This is the best 3 yr old.  Barring misfortune, he wins the Triple Crown.

22 May 2012 7:21 AM
Don from PA/DE

Wonderful story and word plays Steve, Briliant Horse, now our hero and the icing on the story cake is "Lava Man".....the old timer must have been talking it up with his buddy, and told him they will "have another" at the tub! don

22 May 2012 7:36 AM
Linda Hauck

Ummmmm....great races....I give I'll Have Another alot of credit for what he's done and my heart goes out to Bodemeister. He has run his races too. However, one can't be a hypocrit - positive tests (and in this case an embarassing amount) and a high level of breakdowns should stay in the fore front. My life revolves around horses, OTTB's and there well being. For the few that get to the top 1000's are put through grind, trainers must be held accountable for all that are in their care.

Good luck I'll Have Another in the Belmont.

22 May 2012 7:42 AM
heatherhillary

People, this is redemption time.  You are forgetting that I'll Have Another has the blood of ALYDAR running in his veins. 34 years ago Affirmed won the triple crown. I picked this horse to win, I'll Have Another, because of his pedigree,  his blood from Alydar. Alydar's foals have been superior to Affirmed . The Belmont will show the power of Alydar. His strong will, and he never gave up!

22 May 2012 8:12 AM
jim culpepper

Bill Presseys blog  led me to look at the conditioning and your blog caused me to take third and fourth looks at the pedigree and so a week prior to the Derby, I told Frank Mitchell, "Bloodstock in the Bluegrass," that while the Bodemonster worried me, I liked the Cookie Monster best, because he was thriving on hard, old time training. Thanks for the tip on the pedigree.

22 May 2012 8:44 AM
Susan from VA

Fantastic article!  You make me feel like such an "insider!"

22 May 2012 9:21 AM
The Legend

Mr. Haskin as always great article!

I see that Donegal Raqcing has decided to replace Desormeaux with Javier Castellano. I was wondering what are your thoughts on this and have you heard any word from the Matz camp with regards to who will be riding Union Rags?

22 May 2012 9:48 AM
Fran Loszynski

As much as we want our favorite racehorses to win the Triple Crown, this is certainly a time when we need to remind the crowd that racehorses are a beautiful thing to see run and it is a wonderful sport with the friendships of jockey, trainer and owners and fans. I hope IHA wins he deserves it. He and Mario simply deserve it folks. Great article Steve, yes the bad comes with the good but oh boy that good is great!

22 May 2012 9:51 AM
Pedigree Ann

Form counted this year and I have to think it has to do with the outlawing of anabolic steroids. Horses that excelled at two because of artificially enhanced muscles too strong for their developing frame were absent and the real talent could shine.

Consider - I'll Have Another was less than two lengths behind Creative Cause in a 6f G2 at 2, and considering his 2-turn pedigree, he would likely have been up there with the top 3 if he had run in the BC Juvie.

Then at 3, he beat CC at 9f by a nose, and CC had beaten Bodemeister by a half. As I said at the time, in a logical world, IHA would have been the Derby favorite.

But the press chooses to write at greater length about the horses with the best 'human interest stories' - Union Rags' handicapped owner and the Matz/Barbaro sob story, and the Bob Baffert heart-attack/named for his young son story. Yes, the horses were working well, but so were others without such stories. And neither horse was the best on form, yet they were the most fancied, because of emotion, not because of the form.

22 May 2012 10:10 AM
bellesforever

Well done Steve..love the pictures and especially the one of Creative Cause.What a grand couple of races and more to come!

22 May 2012 10:15 AM
Blind Luck

Great article.  What a thrill to have the 1,2,3 horses be California horses!  Way to go boys!  With that said, i just bought my breeders cup tickets at Santa Anita and hope to see the triple crown winner(!) there with Lava Man leading him out to the Classic race.  Go get em!  The team surrounding this horse sounds like a great team.  I wish all the racing gods to give him a safe trip in the Belmont and history be made one more time.!

22 May 2012 10:34 AM
steve from st louis

Steve, your words convey a thousand pictures and your pictures a thousand words. Well. done.

22 May 2012 11:05 AM
MonicaV

Steve,

Magnificent article!

When I awoke last Saturday morning, excited about the Preakness, I knew I'll Have Another would win.  It just came to me and he didn't disappoint.

I have never done this on any blog but I will say this:

I'll Have Another is going to win the Triple Crown.  I feel it in my bones and when he does, I'll be crying with joy.  God bless that horse and his connections and you too, Steve, for making this such a beautiful story.

22 May 2012 11:15 AM
Morgan Strang

Well done Team O'Neill! Congratulations to all of you! Love that Lava Man, too!  Now please wash the feed tub of our champion!

22 May 2012 11:16 AM
slee

Funny how these chestnut 3 year olds come around in dark days.  I remember in 1973 that many suggested Secretariat run for president on the grounds that he could have easily garnered more votes than the incumbent (Nixon).

Is I'll Have Another a Secretariat redux?  No, but he doesn't need to be.  IHA is tough, fast and intelligent.  Secretariat flew, but IHA may be more like Affirmed in his ability to gut out his wins stride by stride and nose by nose.  Maybe like Seattle Slew IHA likes to look his opponent in the eye and mutter the equine equivalent of "let's see what you've got".

In the coming 3 weeks IHA should get used to that quirky surface in Elmont.  Kudos to his team for recognizing what an incredible benefit that is.  Now they need to get MG to ride over the surface a few times.  A trainer new to Belmont said once that he took his pony around the first morning and simply could now believe how long it took to just make 1 circuit.  That massive track with its seemingly never-ending turns is a different world!

Thanks, Steve, for keeping our window open on this particularly glittering spring time view!  On to June 9!

22 May 2012 11:30 AM
Love 'em all

A big thank you, Mr. Haskin, for making a lot of racing fans exceptionally happy reading

"Purple Reign".  What a treat this has been!  

Never was particularly fond of the color purple, but, wow, now I'm lovin' this color thanks to Team O'Neil, Lava Man and, of course, I'll Have Another "Cookie".  They're all the real deal!

Oh, just added Keebler's "Triple" Fudge cookies to my grocery list.  Thanks for the tip. Keebler should have a special "cookie" made when IHA wins the TC ... a purple iced cookie sounds like a winner.

Again, thanks for the treat, and best wishes to all.  

22 May 2012 11:42 AM
Peggy in California

Thank you so much Steve.  I have been waiting anxiously for your Preakness blog.  You always had I'll Have Another on your short list and convinced me to do so with your statement about Mario having chutzpah.  I wonder if you still think that though.  Mario seems self-confident, but not at all cocky.  Dr. D. I laughed at your post Preakness remarks on Steve's prior blog.  Putting in Bodie's mouth "That's the way the cookie crumbles."  Anyone who hasn't read it should go to the end of the last blog before the race.

22 May 2012 11:49 AM
Rachel O

Steve, your article is one of the best I've read. And from you, they're all special.

I have to say this. The eastern folk will have to admit that the California horses are not to be scoffed at. In the last several years, they have been the best. The best race I ever saw was the BC Classic that Zenyatta won.

IHA, Bode, or CC could win the Belmont in most any other year than this one. They are all topnotch.

Well, IF Union Rags finally gets a jockey who can click with him, we may not see a TC winner this year, either. If so, I'll be sad/glad. Horse racing is so full of those conflicting emotions, right? I especially love Union Rags because of his owner and trainer, and--well-he's a handsome dude.

Truth is, we can't have 'em all.

22 May 2012 12:13 PM
El Kabong

That even recaptures the tension of the moment. What a race and a what a story. Thanks again Gandolf, I mean Steve.

Hey, there's a great video out there that captures ONeil's reaction while IHA and Bode are coming down the stretch. Hope and Mr. ONeil are rooting on Mario and it's worth viewing. That little girl must be having the time of her life. I hope she's going to NY with team O'Neil.

Steve,

I haven't heard a peep about how Went The Day Well is doing. Can't help but be concerned as he certainly did not look well running. Do you have any word?

22 May 2012 12:17 PM
genie918

Like the weekend's partial eclipse, everything seems to be lining up perfectly for Team O'Neil.  Let's hope the positive energy continues for them.  The sport certainly needs a lift right now.

"NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams" showed a clip from the race last night at the end of the show which was good PR for the sport.  I hope NBC takes advantage of an opportunity to promote the upcoming Belmont Stakes through its broadcasts of "The Today Show", the news and even late night talk shows since they will be televising the race. There are so many stories they could touch base on from the obvious being the horse and his connections to the history of the race and the Triple Crowns of the 70's.  

As always, wonderful blog!  I look forward to your upcoming pieces leading up to the Belmont Stakes.

22 May 2012 12:47 PM
Aluminaut

Thanks Steve--for all the photos and another great article. On to the Belmont and a shot at history for I'll Have Another. Everyone is walking on air for the next three weeks.  Hold your heads up!  All I can says is.......Start Spreading the News......  

22 May 2012 12:56 PM
Bill Two

Love this horse.  What an effort down the stretch to reel in the loose-on-the-lead Bodemeister!  Doug O'Neill has done a masterful job in preparing this horse and it gauls me to read the criticism levelled at him. Whether he administered "milkshakes" to his horses or not, he's a helluva trainer. By the way, what is the problem with "milkshakes" {besides the fact they are illegal}?  What harm do they do the horse?  We're talking about inocuous substances here - not cobra venom.  It boggles my mind why something like this is illegal.  Anybody have a clue why they aren't allowed?  There may be a good reason, but I don't know what it is.

22 May 2012 12:58 PM
maryann727

Mr. Haskin,  Thank you for shining a light on the positive aspects of this story--and what great storylines they are!  As always, when I read your writing I am reminded what a wonderful wordsmith you are; no one weaves a story better than you.  Thank you.  I look forward to everything you will write leading to the Belmont.  Fingers crossed for a Triple Crown winner.  It has been too long.

22 May 2012 1:13 PM
michelee

Terrific, Steve.  We'd all like

Another--from both you and that

tough little colt! (What DO they call him in the barn?) Wonderful to see Lava Man getting the cheers he deserves as well.  Go Team O'Neill!

22 May 2012 1:57 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and kind words. Guys like O'Neill and his team and Paul Reddam, and a horse like this make storytelling so much easier.

22 May 2012 1:58 PM
Shelby's Best Pal

This was a wonderfully written story. And the pictures are just great!

22 May 2012 2:26 PM
Ribot

Thanks for the recap Steve it's great to hear someone let everyone know what a great person Doug is and to finally see them start to get the other side of the story about the drug issue out. Now maybe we can start hearing about the masterful trainer Doug is. It had to take allot of guts to stick to your gut to train IHA like he did because i'm sure he would have been roundly criticized if it hadn't worked out

22 May 2012 2:46 PM
Bill in Atlanta

Steve,

Thanks for the stories leading up to the Preakness and afterwards.  Your articles are "priceless" for those that are not able to see all that you can see.

I was at the Derby and I was at the Preakness, and I feel mighty lucky to have gotten to see IHA run. My seat at Pimlico was about a 1/3 of the way down the stretch, and when IHA straightened up from the final turn, and he was right in front of our group, and Mario asked him to fire, he just BLASTED OFF, and within just a few strides IHA had his sights on Bode.  It was just an awesome few seconds to watch when he fired.  I have re-watched the race over and over, and for anyone to say this horse isn't great, I dare them to watch the race again and watch him fire when Mario asks him to.  

Please keep giving us your close quarters accounts.  I will miss the Belmont because I will be in Europe with my wife but I am counting on you to give me a full report!

22 May 2012 3:02 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Peggy in California

   Thanks, that's nice of you !!! With the jockey changes on Union Rags and Dullahan they become horses to fear. Fear definitely creeps in when a Triple Crown is on the line. I'll Have Another is so relaxed, determined, tenacious, and talented with the pedigree for the Belmont, it is hard to imagine that it won't at least be close, but close is no good unless we get it. In fact close is worse than getting wiped out. Haunting is what it becomes so let's go ahead and get it done !!!!!  Woohoo !!!! Go baby go !!!!!! Team O'Neill and Reddam (how can you not love 'em) have already headed 'em up and moved 'em out to Belmont, and I'm not just talking about the truck load of cookies. What a team this is, and we've got Haskin to read to enhance this magnificent journey. I didn't want to get excited this early but what can you do. It's been a long wait for the recipe for the perfect cookie.

22 May 2012 3:06 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I suppose I need to appease the Racing Gods again- It just looks like it's impossible. Impossible. Impossible.

22 May 2012 3:09 PM
LucyWG

The only thing I did not like about this article was that Lava Man was not in the team picture.  I adore that horse and I love Doug O'Neill for giving him the great life he deserves.

  I hope I'll Have Another has yet another good race in him!

22 May 2012 3:14 PM
Kathy Weightman

Steve, I alway know I have been reading something you wrote because I simply disappear for awhile.  I get lost in the worlds you create for us.  I hope we have a Triple Crown for you to write about soon.  I still remember the 70's so vividly and would love to enjoy that high again with you and the rest of racing.  Smarty broke my heart. Time for another red colt to bring glory to racing and joy to the fans!  Go Cookie!!

22 May 2012 3:23 PM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

Keep the articles coming so as to entice the Wizards of the blog to both make their picks.Although those two hard heads are apt to jump ship now, they could be stubborn enuff to stay on their Derby picks that they made last year after the Breeders Cup Juvenile,which by the way had 9 starters in the Derby all with 2yo racing foundation of which only Dullahan hit the board in third.

22 May 2012 3:31 PM
OldPathsFarm

Is there a Pulitzer for racing articles? Delightful read, as always.

22 May 2012 3:34 PM
Sue MacGray

Steve, thanks for the great article. Although I like Dullahan, as a racing fan I will be rooting for I'll Have Another to take the Triple Crown (and heal the wounds of Smarty Jones' game attempt). IHA is looking and acting every bit the champion. He certainly looks none the worse for wear. As someone else posted above I've already let myself dream of these two (&Bode) meeting in the Breeders Cup Classic in November. But we do have a few months to get through first :) Here's to I'll Have Another (whom my sister-in-law also liked because of his name), going all the way on June 9th!

22 May 2012 3:39 PM
Linda in Texas

Uno mas magnifica historia escrita por el mismo y unico STEVE HASHKINS! Y Mario, fantastico y solo una vez mas!!

Steve, this was the best article yet. You just keep firing and firing with more and more. I am in awe as i know everyone else is.

GunBow, you caught up yet? This is a heavy and serious ride.

I love the heart of Bodemeister and all who handle him. Love Bob Baffert and the entire group. What a competitor. Proud as heck of the entire California Brigade. And to the big beautiful gray, Creative Cause, you were not so bad yourself. They let him run this time.

To the Reddams, we all envy you being so close to such a grand horse and are so proud of you.

To Douglas and Dennis O'Neill.

You have made so many people, ordinary folks, so happy with your

wins and your heart. Dennis you are the quiet one. Douglas you show your heart right up front.

To me their training techniques are right out of the original books of training. The horse comes first. And i admire the gentleman who is always with I'll Have Another, walking him, bathing him, feeding him, He is right with him.

It has to be calming for I'll Have another to always be able to count on one thing, the same person will be with him.

To I'll Have Another. You are the

one! And to your barn buddy and pony Lava Man. You are doing a great job fella. Old Friend's can wait a little longer, you still have a job to do but will have a wonderful place to go later! To think that Lava Man was a claimer and could have had a different ending gives a shuddering further thought to the fact that originally

I'll Have Another was sold for $11,000. Then bought for $35,000.

It is all such an amazing story.

One that will be read and spoken about for years to come.

Perhaps Steve The horrible articles

coming from the New York Paper are nothing more than a jab at the west coast horses and horse racing in general everywhere. Yes, some things need to be corrected but I would hope that we all are above zeroing in on only the bad and not the good. Perhaps i am dreaming. After all I'll Have Another was born in Kentucky, a middle coast horse so to speak.

Now i need to read what all the good people have said in a minute.

Alex'sBigFan and Zen's Auntie where ever you are, Bandbox ran in Race 8, The Maryland Sprint last week end at Pimlico he came in Second behind Hamazing Destiny for his first G3 win. Diski Dance came in third! It was good to see Bandbox again and i wrote beside his name,where's Zen's Auntie been. Hope all is well.

Thanks ever so much Steve.

I have hogged too much space. again. I just simply cannot keep this all to myself. Just when you think it cannot get better, it does. It is called faith with hope riding shotgun.

22 May 2012 3:57 PM
Mister Frisky

Johnny V on Union Rags.Draynay can come out of hiding and guarantee a Union Rags romp.

22 May 2012 4:19 PM
Karen in Texas

Another tremendous word portrait, Steve! You capture the essence of your subject matter like no one else, and that transports the reader onto the scene. Touching on Doug O'Neill's charity/community work really accentuates the positive--the children will remember his visits forever. May I'll Have Another remain happy, fit, and healthy as he proceeds toward the Triple Crown.

Bill Two----Milk-shaking is illegal because it lessens the lactic acid build up in the muscles so that the horse does not "feel the burn" and can keep going longer. It is therefore considered performance enhancing. Lab results are sometimes debatable because other factors can produce increased TCO2 levels as well. I found a link that provides basic information.

www.michigan.gov/.../TCO2_handout_274689_7.pdf

22 May 2012 4:25 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Three weeks is a long time. Have to find ways to occupy my mind. Do you think Josh Hamilton can do it? It's been 45 years since Yaz last did it in 67. Before that it was Robinson, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams (twice).

22 May 2012 4:41 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Linda in Texas

   That's right. Lava man is The Man and maybe the key ingredient for the cookies. Top gelding and pony of all time. What's next, his own TV show? "Hello, I'm Mr. Lava Man." With Doug O' Neill as Wilbur. Did you know that Clint Eastwood was a guest star in an episode of Mr. Ed?

22 May 2012 4:47 PM
TerriV

Excellent article, Steve,  I was at Pimlico and that had to have been one of the most wonderful race days I have ever experienced.  It was perfect. How can you not love the grit and determination; the heart and drive we all saw in both Bodemeister and I'll Have Another!!!! The roar of that crowd when we saw him kick it into gear - my God! it was racing at it's very best.  I defy anyone not to fall in love with this sport after that!  I don't want to jinx anything but this horse seems to be the package - the whole thing, not just parts.  

Not only was Sat. great but Sunrise at Old Hilltop on Wed, Thurs, and Friday was fantastic.  The crowds seemed to have tripled and to be honest about it Lava Man was the star all three mornings.  There was a gentleman next to us who said he'd drifted away from racing for awhile but was there to see I'll Have Another.  But the entire crowd just gushed over Lava Man every time they walked by.  He got more cheers than any other horse there.  So this gentleman asked why everyone was cheering this other horse and not the Derby winner - everyone standing there couldn't wait to tell him about Lava Man.  When we love our horses, we always love our horses!!  May we witness something glorious June 9th - I can't wait!

22 May 2012 5:09 PM
jim culpepper

Steve, what are your thoughts on the NY rule about IHAs nasal strip?

Kiss of death or gilding the lily?

22 May 2012 5:23 PM
Longshot

Thanks so much! Missed watching as we went camping. Your column was the first thing I clicked on when I got home cause you tell it like it is. Made me almost think I was there!

22 May 2012 5:26 PM
Ranagulzion

Dr Drunkinbum,

Prepare for a broken heart especially if Edgar Prado gets the call to partner Union Rags. He's been there and done that against Smarty Jones, aboard Birdstone in 2004. He's also teamed with Michael Matz before on Barbaro in Derby 2006. You may need to keep a bottle of Scotch beside you Doc (LOL).

22 May 2012 6:10 PM
Ranagulzion

Well its been confirmed that Johnny V has secured the mount on Union Rags for the Belmont. No encore for Prado but the heartbreak looms nonetheless.

this Belmont Stakes is the definitive race of the year and U/Rags quest for championship honours gets rolling right there. Its all about who's the top of the crop. Lets get it on.

22 May 2012 6:30 PM
Katherine

Bit of trivia, I was drooling over Cookie's bottom side pedigree and noticed he goes back to Princequillo four times. Princequillo set a track record going 1 3/4 miles.

22 May 2012 6:47 PM
smarie

After I'll Have Another won the Derby, I was making comparisons between him and Sunday Silence with my husband. Both are considered "California" horses and both won the SA Derby. Neither were favored to win the Kentucky Derby but win they did. I don't believe Sunday Silence was favored to win his Preakness and we all know that IHA wasn't. They both won again. I just hope IHA's Belmont has a different outcome. It seems like neither horse received the respect they deserved. Bodemeister, while a wonderful horse, seems to be lauded for his efforts more than IHA is for his efforts. I guess winning races by large margins garners a horse more attention than winning by smaller margins does. Must have something to do with that wow factor. I am rooting so very much for IHA to win the Triple Crown. If he does, he'll have done it differently than any of the previous winners. I don't believe the auxiliary starting gate was in place in any of the previous TC winner's Kentucky Derbies. Winning against 20 horses in the spectacle that is the Kentucky Derby is much harder than winning against 14 horses IMO. Whatever happens, IHA should be recognized for the wonderful, talented race horse he is and not be endlessly compared or linked to Bodemeister. These two should be judged on their own merits and not exclusively on their win records against each other. And I hope when this horse is retired, he isn't sent to Japan or other places overseas. Perhaps he hasn't the most fashionable bloodline but he belongs here in the US with all of us who love him.

As to the drug references mentioned in the press: throughbred racing has a tremendously serious problem with drugs, breakdowns and horse abuse, not to mention sending TB's to slaughter. Racing just cannot seem to overcome these issues on it's own and the Federal government may step in. If it saves horses' and jock's lives, I am all for it. These negatives of racing will be in the forefront of all things talked about when discussing racing until they are resolved. And we all know how the press can focus on negatives. Seen any political columns lately? Any skeletons in a winning trainer's closet will be pulled out for close examination. The best way to avoid this? Never use illegal drugs or any illegal substances on your horses, period.

22 May 2012 7:17 PM
Slew

Steve, as usual, you surpass yourself with every article you write, and this is no exception.  What a great insider look into a very happy crew.

I do think Bodemeister will, by November, probably be a top dog.  But for now, I'll Have Another has proven to be exceptional.  I can hardly wait for the Belmont.  Might this be the year the drought ends?  It's such a Cinderella story that it's becoming a strong possibility.

And every time I'll Have Another sets hoof on a race track, I get the added thrill of seeing the charismatic Lava Man.  Wow!  Who could want for more?

22 May 2012 7:20 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Dr. D.,

Yes I meant to comment too on your other post, funny as hell with the cookies flying around and Bode saying, "that's the way the cookie crumbles!"  Little does anyone in the real world know that horses do talk, well, er, uh, only on Steve's blogs!!!  They have been showing Mr. Ed lately, I think on the Hallmark channel, and I watched a few episodes and was cracking up!  I never realized what a really beautiful horse Ed was!  The voice was perfect too, who was Ed's voice, do you know?

Ed was vacuuming the barn on the episode I watched!

Linda in Texas,

You summed it up perfectly.  I feel like we are all riding on a giant bandwagon, Steve is driving (he is the faith) and Dr. D. is riding shotgun (he is the hope) and we are all piled in the back feeling this surge of greatness on the horizon about to happen.

Steve Shahinian,

If you are out there reading this, don't feel too badly.  Think of it this way, if IHA does win the Triple Crown think of yourself as the catalyst who brought him to this team and to California.  Things happen for a reason, and if the crown is captured this time you just may have been instrumental in the whole thing.  

22 May 2012 7:22 PM
KG1

Hi Steve,

Thanks so much for making racing come alive.  At times your writing is down right poetry.

The grit of I'll Have Another is fantastic.  Some one said he'll never lose by a nose...I don't think he'll ever win by a wide margin either. This horse just loves to compeat.

My horse from last years BC was/is Dullahan.  I'll have a tough choice when I go out to Belmont on "The Day".

The sport needs a Triple Crown winner.  More than that it needs to clean up it's act. It needs to do better building a fan base.  

I'm not a big bettor.  I go for the excitement, beauty and to watch those horses leave their all on the track doing what they're bred for.  

I was at The Big A for the Carter.  I spent a whole race on a line to get a PEPSI...lukewarm at that. There is only ONE refreshment stand (track level)on the first turn/paddock side of the track.  Belmont needs a face lift.  Heck I don't think they've changed a bathroom in that joint in 40 years.

What's wrong with that picture?

Neglect of the horse racing public is another failure of the powers that be.  

I'll get off my soapbox now.

One thing...Jerry Bailey on Preakness Day stated that more horses aiming for the TC lost the Belmont due to riders inexperience at Belmont than the horse not being good enough.  

I hope the new kid on the block comes and race rides here even if O'Neill has to ship horses here for the kid to do it.

I'm so much more excited this year than anytime in the last decade about a horse accomplishing the Triple.  I think he is the most complete horse to come down the pike in ages.

Again, thanks.  Your words make the color, beauty and excitement of horse racing come alive.

ps...to ksweatman9..I also loved that book...and you cracked me up.  "the book was bigger than you".

22 May 2012 7:40 PM
ksweatman9

I truly believe in my heart that I'll Have Another is the best 3 year old pound for pound at this point in time. That's a difficult statement for me to make because I can find something good in every horse. There is alot of talent this year. That being said, the "best" horse often doesn't win the Belmont, distance and  fatique are game changers. I see Dullahan as a big threat, perhaps more so than Bodemeister would've been. Dullahan was closing like a freight train in the Derby, and he appeared to have plenty of gas left in the tank. Now he's rested, and that makes him dangerous competition for the mile and a half. If IHA can do this, he's a horse for the ages, and I'm hoping he can.

22 May 2012 7:41 PM
JON R

Just because I'll Have Another is a chestnut...like Secreatariat and Affirmed...doesn't mean he is third in line of the great thoroughbred's of the last 45 years, or whatever,..or that Affirmed needs be mentioned in the overall scheme of things before the great Slew!  And in any case, Alydar was more than Bodemister and should not be held in that "comparative" postion.  At stud at Calumet, Alydar was king...and he knew it...and Affirmed, in the next paddock, was second fiddle, and HE knew it.  So don't go degrading Alydar in any way...or putting Affirmed's name before Slew's in the pantheon of the most recent Triple Crown Winners!

22 May 2012 8:28 PM
Freetex

What a beautifully written piece.  I am one of your fans who checks the Bloodhorse consistently looking for articles and lately, the wonderful photos.

A triple crown is so hard to imagine.  To think its very, very possible this year just sends quivers all through my horse crazy brain.

I'll Have Another's behaves as though he has already one the Crown.  He's all personality.  I think his amber chestnut coat is just outstanding.  

What a year!

22 May 2012 8:42 PM
Harryshorses

Great photo of Creative Cause.  Sort of like attending a major convention and coming back the day after everyone else has left.

22 May 2012 8:55 PM
TerriZ

Thanks for the incredible series of triple crown articles that you have written this year.

I'm hoping that we all witness something special in the Belmont. And I hope NYRA and NBC broadcasting will invite and highlight the winning owners and jockeys of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed at this year's Belmont Stakes. Seattle Slew already has his grandson, Lava Man, on the track.

Maybe you and/or Lenny can interview the last three triple crown winners' connections.

22 May 2012 9:15 PM
Uncle Smiley

Steve:

Great piece.  Has Hollywood approached you about the screen play yet?

You paint the picture of a rough and tumble crew of connections to a bargain poised to pull off what has been elusive since 1978!

I'll probaby place my money elsewhere, but IHA will have my vote.

US

PS to Dr DB

And did Mister Ed teach Clint a lesson or two!  It all comes down to Horse Sense, and a classy shadow roll.

22 May 2012 9:26 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Alex'sBigFan

  I looked it up at Wikipedia. Mr. Ed was played by Bamboo Harvester, a gelding, and his voice was Allan Lane. Kind of a shock for me to discover that wasn't actually the voice of Mr. Ed. And thanks !!!

22 May 2012 10:29 PM
Mister Frisky

JON R,The Alydar offspring were physically a thing of beauty.They were serious looking racehorses.To this day I remember Criminal Type in the paddock for the Hollywood Gold Cup,Maybe the most beautiful horse I've ever seen.Then he played with Sunday Silence in a two horse stretch drive.Affirmed and Alydar met 10 times.IHA and Bode have a long way to go to be even considered in the same context.

22 May 2012 10:42 PM
Uncle Smiley

KG1:

Come on down to Delaware Park, just outside of Wilmington.

Free parking.  No admission.  Great picknic  grove and padock. Complete with a range of eateries at all levels of taste and cost.

Never overcrowded.

Plus, a wonderful place to view some of the best two year olds on the East Coast, and a spring board for equally great riders.  Ramon Dominguez and Rosie Napravnik are some recent DelPark graduates who now grace the NY circuits.

Wow, talk about soap boxes!  OK, just stepped down.

US

22 May 2012 11:16 PM
tjconway

In horse racing, I consider myself a traditionalist. The horses of yesteryear would destroy today's horses.

I must admit, I have not jumped on to the I'll Have Another bandwagon. His competition(except for Bode)is not that great. The colt himself is awesome and maybe I'll warm up to him on Jun.8th!

The bottom line is it's kind of nice not having a triple crown winner in the last 34 years! I realize the "sport" desperately needs one......but I don't!

Is there anyone out there who feels the same way? I'm too much of a purist! If Alydar,Spectacular Bid and Native Dancer can't win the triple crown......no one else deserves to!

I'm sorry, I'm just being negative!!!!!!

22 May 2012 11:22 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Ranagulzion

  Don't you mean celebrating with a dozen butterscotch cookies? Don't be a party pooper. Stock up on cookies and get ready.

Uncle Smiley

   Mr. Ed taught us all a lot. Speaking of teaching lessons, I'll Have Another is teaching quite a few. Got to feel bad for Bodemeister though. What we need now is a well timed Belmont ride. Don't get there too late or the lead too early.

22 May 2012 11:23 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Jon R,

Of course just because IHA is a chestnut doesn't mean he will win the Triple Crown.  It will be his athletic prowess and that never say die grinding tactical speed that gets it won.  He has all the tools.  When I said he could be the third chestnut it is just a superstitious thing, like since we have 3 back-to-back-to-back consecutive female HOY's maybe we'll get a TC winner.  

Dr. D.,

Thanks for looking that up.  How did they ever get Ed to talk into the phone?  He did a lot of tricks, amazing.

Go IHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

22 May 2012 11:47 PM
trackjack

Steve,

Another great wrap-up, thanks. With just one more to go on this Triple Crown Trail, I'll Have Another.  Your pictures too, Steve, lend a visual impact that complement your words perfectly.  I love the clean, feed tub shot.

Did anyone notice the NBC camera shots from their high crane as the field came off of the turn into the backstretch? The golden sun of early evening turned the track into a golden brown with jockey silks contrasting with the differing sun-reflected horses coats.  To top it off, the angle of the sun threw much larger than life black shadows onto the track of each horse and jockey.  It was a surreal shot of the beauty of the sport.  NBC should market that still shot, I would purchase it.

Speaking of NBC, they continue to miss huge opportunities to market this sport to the casual fan.  They ignored again the two graded stakes run during their coverage before the Preakness.  If casual fans or first time viewers actually stayed tuned in for two hours, they were left with the impression that only one race was run that day, the Preakness. It is no wonder their ratings were down from last year.  The first time viewer or casual fan was treated to some nice human interest stories and a lot of talking heads and only one horse race.  Fans get attracted to this sport because of the thoroughbred, THE HORSES, not talking heads.  As you put it so beautifully, Steve, in your second paragraph; "...here comes this horse and his arch rival Bodemeister to reach out to the national public and enable them once again to experience the power the thoroughbred has held over us for centuries."

Steve, you get it, most of us get it (although you have the gift to write about it); It's about the thoroughbred.  IMO, Steve, NBC should hire you to advise them on producing the Belmont.  Show us the graded races before the Belmont; they're a part of this sport. Show us the power of these thoroughbreds on dirt and turf.  Thoroughbreds competing against each other keep the casual viewer engaged, not talking heads. And all the while slowly turning up the drama dial leading to the Belmont Stakes.  You could do it Steve, you have the gift.  

NBC has a golden opportunity with the I'll Have Another/Team O'Neill angle and the Triple Crown on the line, to showcase this sport and keep it centered on the POWER OF THE THOROUGHBRED.  NBC needs you Steve.

We have seats in the third level, we'll be there and hope to see the first Triple Crown Winner in 34 years.  Hope to see you there Steve, thanks for your hard work and thanks for letting me rant.      

23 May 2012 1:00 AM
Bigtex

Greatness, Steve!

Shouldn't we have an area (VIP) at the Belmont where all of the Haskin bloggers can gather and sit/stand/yell together at The Belmont and be a part of history???

I foresee a great Breeders Cup Classic:

I'LL HAVE ANOTHER

TO HONOR AND SERVE

ANIMAL KINGDOM

MUCHO MACHO MAN

WISE DAN

SUCCESSFUL DAN

MY MISS AURELIA

UNION RAGS

DULLAHAN

BODEMEISTER

PAYNTER

MORNING LINE

RON THE GREEK

STAY THIRSTY

NEHRO

ALTERNATION

GAME ON DUDE

23 May 2012 1:06 AM
Slew

Jon R: Now don't you just wonder why no racetrack in the country, especially Belmont (his home track) has ever come up with a mile and a quarter handicap named the Seattle Slew Stakes???? 35 years have passed, and nothing.

As to Alydar...he was my pick in '78, and the only horse to come in 2nd in each leg of the TC.  Great in his own right, he gave us the marvelous Alysheba, who captured the Derby and Preakness and BC Classic along with HOY.  "Alysheba became the only horse in the modern era to run 10 furlongs under 2:00 three times in one calendar year."

As to I'll Have Another, how can you not cheer him on when the prize at stake is so grand.  Best of luck to the entire team; they've certainly earned it.  (including Lava Man who keeps giving the new kid pointers on how to win.)

23 May 2012 3:34 AM
Steve Haskin

Tjconway, don’t put too much emphasis on competition. It’s too early to know what he’s been beating, but I can tell you it’s certainly no worse than the horses Seattle Slew beat in the Triple Crown (Run Dusty Run, Sanhedrin, Iron Constitution are the only horses to finish 2,3 in the entire Triple Crown), and that didn’t prevent Slew from becoming one of the all-time greats.

Jim Culpepper, I don’t know the effects of nasal strips, other than it was all the rage in the 1999 Breeders’ Cup when many of the winners wore it. Then it just sort of died out until now. IHA uses either several of them or one huge one. I just know it helps clear the air passages in a seemingly benevolent way. Remember when human athletes, mainly football players used them all the time? NYRA banning them give them sort of a sinister connotation, as if it too performance enhancing, but theyre simple things used externally, so I don’t see that. I have no idea if running without them will affect IHA or not. All I know is that theyre not attractive. :)

BigTex, I think the emphasis would be on “stand.”

Thanks again to everyone for your comments.

23 May 2012 7:45 AM
ksweatman9

Why do people always come up with the idea that the competition isn't up to task? Why is that? Zenyatta was continually slammed for racing against her own gender and when she did take on the boys at the Breeders Cup races, it was said they were a weak crop. REALLY? In my opinion, this crop of 3 year olds is talented, so could it be, just maybe, I'll Have Another is exceptionally good? Possibility? Sadly, I think many horse racing fans are far too critical of the magnificent creatures who lay their lives on the line to entertain us. This is May, they are 3 year olds. Isn't it a bit soon to be passing judgement on their careers? Cut these ponies a break, please.  Steve, your blogs are excellent, many thanks for your wonderful contribution to the sport.

23 May 2012 9:14 AM
Giddyup

Keep the photos coming Steve. They make a great blog even better. Just out of curiosity....what is the punishment for media reporters who fail to mention the Kentucky Derby is presented by Yum Brands?

23 May 2012 9:24 AM
Jean in Chicago

I think O'Neil's smartest move is to get his horse to the next track ASAP.  It gives him time to get adjusted to the new location, everything from the smells of the new shedrow to the feel of the track.  And to recover from any travel issues.

 I've felt for years that it isn't that West Coast or European horses aren't good enough to win East Coast races, its just that they ship in at the last minute, unload, gallop  on the new track a couple of times and get shoved into the starting gate.  Its expecting a lot.  Heaven knows, I'm frazzled after a 2 hr flight.  Besides, if jockeys need to get used to Belmont's extra long stretch, why not the horses as well?

 And while I love seeing Lava Man, I also love the fact that he's a walking advertisement for retraining retired racers.

23 May 2012 9:46 AM
Steve Haskin

Giddyup, for the magazine and online news stories, it's bamboo chutes in the fingernails and 30 minutes in the time-out corner. For a personal blog...shhh.

23 May 2012 9:57 AM
Capricelee

Another masterpiece, Steve. Thanks again for a great read. You are truly a goodwill ambassador of our sport.

23 May 2012 10:29 AM
big john t

John Valesquez is riding Union Rags in the Belmont.

23 May 2012 11:05 AM
Lise from Maine

Hi!

If Bodemeister is not in the Belmont, then who will challenge I'll Have Another?

I think a different strategy could have been played out by Bodemeister's trainer and owner since he lost twice with taking the lead from the start.

I think I'll Have Another is a great horse, and his true self will be displayed at the Belmont

especially if Bodemeister is not in the race.

There are many, many great horses who are now rested up and will challenge I'll Have Another in the Belmont but who is it at this point?

Great article!

Thank you!

23 May 2012 11:38 AM
opsherr

It certainly has been an eventful couple of weeks. Here we are looking at possible history in the making. I know, I certainly hope it happens. The good a Triple Crown winner would do for racing at these troubled times is immeasurable. However, let's not get duped into being Pollyannas. The issues at hand are huge and have to be solved or racing will continue to decline and eventually disappear. Is this being cynical, I don't think so.

The constant comparing one horse of history to a horse of the present is really annoying. Each horse should be judged on his/her merit. Is I'll Have Another a talented horse? No doubt! Should he be compared to Secretariat? Absolutely, not! The truth be known if Secretariat ran on May 5, 2012, he would have won in 1:57 flat, not 2:01 and change. The Derby Day track  has been modified since 1993.

And so it goes.  

23 May 2012 11:56 AM
Bill Two

Karen in Texas, thanks so much for weighing in on this issue and thanks for the link.  Very much appreciated!

23 May 2012 1:10 PM
clvrgrl

Hey Steve here's a potential story angle - I'll Have Anothers' classic races are on the same days as in 1973; Secretariat's year.

23 May 2012 1:18 PM
JorgeG

Mr. Haskin, I think I saw you in a video watching the race with Bob Baffert!!

23 May 2012 1:20 PM
Soldier Course

I began this year's Triple Crown season loving Union Rags and his heartwarming story, so beautifully told in the documentary with Dick Jerardi. What a wonderful American saga, the Wyeth family breeds a classic Thoroughbred runner.

Now another has come from the clouds. I rely on this wisdom: A rising tide lifts all boats.

I'll Have Another ... Triple Crown.  

23 May 2012 4:31 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Steve, regarding the nasal strips, pretty ridiculous on NYRA's part if they ban them.  Agree with you they are external things, not medicated, and work on key touch points according to the anatomy of the nose, much like the human breathe right strips.  All they do is allow more air into the nostrils.  NYRA needs to start focusing on more marketing efforts.

23 May 2012 7:40 PM
Uncle Smiley

Dr. DB:

If they could school racing enthusiasts, like some can school a good thorough bred, then Mister Ed will have prevailed!

You will get no debate from me, I'll Have Another, will see stress from Union Rags or Mark Valeski, if they run, but not from Bodemeister.

IHA seems, young, healthy and hungry for that extra length in the Belmont.

US

23 May 2012 7:52 PM
Uncle Smiley

Big Tex

Dont forget Shackleford!

US

23 May 2012 7:58 PM
Alex'sBigFan

.....on the nasal strips, if IHA has worn them in his previous races and it was allowed why isn't it allowed in New York?  This is another shining example of racing not being on the same page and where a Commissioner is needed or why can't the Jockey Club overrule NYRA on this?  I don't even consider Lasix as being "performance enhancing," it allows the horses to perform to the best of their own abiities and there's a difference, not only in the matter of semantics.  I should think NYRA should concentrate on promoting this race and fix their kaotic state of internal affairs and stop worrying about nasal strips.  Let IHA wear them and don't thwart his chances for a TC and don't change a hair on him.  

23 May 2012 8:17 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Ok, now I am getting annoyed at NYRA on this one issue of the nasal strips.  Did they not have enough go wrong the day Big Brown ran?  The plumbing in the building broke, the bathrooms were unusable, water was running on the floors, the starter was in BB's lane, BB's shoe came off, it was 95 degrees, the track was strange, and BB was pulled up in that horror show.  Do they not want a TC to happen on their grounds?  I should think that with state government officials having to step in they should not be so overly concerned with little nasal strips.  Good grief, leave IHA alone NYRA!  O'Neill should be fighting this issue hopefully.  It makes no sense to me, all the equine deaths at Aqueduct and they are worried about nasal strips.  Go figure.

23 May 2012 8:34 PM
CHIEF PICAWINNA

Hello bloggers it looks like the wizards have gone into their shelters.One possible reason is because of a new outcry by congress for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction that must be dug-up(I think N Korea was the aledged perpetraitor) Well what a coincedence that since they(Two Wizards)have disappeared a collection of new charaters have magically starting posting on the well worn Triple Crown Trail and this its saloon.Well that should give us the signal for each of us to create Two more charaters on this blog along with the one we already have playing.

23 May 2012 10:24 PM
Greg R

Those "certain publications" specialize in muckraking, sensationalism and persecuting the "guilty until proven innocent."  The New York Times has not been a NEWSpaper for many years; it is one giant editorial page from beginning to end, with a jaundiced view of the world and a political axe to grind.  Their cynical agenda makes me root all the more for Team O'Neill, for whom a Triple Crown would provide the last laugh.

24 May 2012 1:01 AM
an ole railbird

thank you pedigreeann. i could not say it, like that ,although i tried. that not just in this years tc. races. the press is makeing the odds in most of the big races with their bleeding heart storys. thanks for your imput.enough said "an ole railbird".

24 May 2012 10:20 AM
TerriV

Nasal Strips!!!! For God's Sake aren't there more important things to worry about?

24 May 2012 4:57 PM
Uncle Smiley

Steve

Bamboo and fingernails.  Ouch!

Lookin forward to some great Belmont pix and observations no matter what the outcome is!

IHA, over Union Rags, over Mark Valeski.

US

24 May 2012 7:45 PM
Alex'sBigFan

TerriV,

Glad you agree with me on the nasal strips.  I see them more fitting into the category of "equipment" than medication.  It's almost like an equipment change and they can't be any more cumbersome or appearance altering than the big shadow rolls.  Don't worry, Lava Man will teach IHA to get mad and flare out his nostrils naturally so enough air gets in!!!

24 May 2012 10:15 PM
Mike Monarchos

Steve,

Another great article! You should get an award for your writing.

24 May 2012 10:29 PM
GoldenBroom

Here's hoping that the Headless. horseman Dullahan doesn't run down IHA and our triple dreams this year..

25 May 2012 1:43 PM
Racingfan

Another fantastic article Steve!!!  Thanks so much - for the the pictures too!  Always look forward to your articles!!

**and FYI heatherhillary.... Alydar's blood and Affirmed's blood is one and the same since Alydar was a grandson of Native Dancer through Raise A Native and Affirmed was a great grandson of Native Dancer through Raise A Native's son Exclusive Native!

25 May 2012 8:08 PM
captainsmistress

Please God! America needs a Triple Crown Winner! We need an athlete that does not get drunk in public and obnoxious! That does not abuse women! A strong, silent type, if you will! We all need to get behind this game little grinder and cheer him to victory! Please God, let it happen this year. I am not even religious, but I am going to find God if this horse can pull this one out!

26 May 2012 5:46 PM
Thelwell Pony

Giddyup & Mr. Haskin - y'all are hilarious.

29 May 2012 3:22 AM
kincsem

Steve,

Mr. O'Neill's supoort of the fight against cancer is very commendable. However, your remarks about the negative press that horse racing has received are off the mark. Racing NEEDS to clean up its act. If the O'Neill barn has received violations from using the same substance (Lasix) as almost every other barn, shouldn't it raise a red flag that he has a consistent problem? And the tylenol excuse? Last time I checked, Tylenol is a pain-inhibitor; sore horses run better when they cannot feel their pain, & subsequently could break down more frequently. I have nothing against Mr. O'Neill, but I do strongly suggest that the sport would get more fans if the suspicions of foul play were resolved. For starters, have a zero-tolerance rule. Anyone who was found with cobra venom in their barn should be banned for life, but the good ole boys in this sport take care of their own. Maybe it is time for some non-racing related people to regulate the obvious cheating and mitigate the well-founded general public concerns for the safety of the animals.

31 May 2012 12:53 PM

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