Prior to his gallop, Isleta, a 3-year-old maiden from the barn of Carl Domino, unseated her rider and ran off, passing within inches of I’ll Have Another and exercise rider Jonny Garcia.
After evading the loose horse on the Belmont main track, I’ll Have Another turned in his customary one-mile gallop.
Hours after the near miss, the New York Racing Association announced there would be a 15-minute training window for Belmont runners only, beginning June 1. Trainers have the option of working their Belmont contenders from 8:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., or during regular training at earlier or later times.
O'Neill said his Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner was walking a few feet from the outside rail when the second horse threw his rider and came “screaming up the outside rail” the same way I’ll Have Another was walking.
O’Neill said the horse went between the rail and I’ll Have Another, and that Garcia told him the horse grazed his boot. The trainer said he feared a collision was imminent. He said he’s seen accidents like that, and “they are ugly.”
He said his stomach is “still a little twisted” and he doesn’t want to think about what nearly happened.
“Once we dodged that, everything went well,” said O’Neill, who trains I’ll Have Another for J. Paul Reddam. “He jogged great, galloped super. I noticed every day he’s cooling out even quicker. He seems like he loves it here, and he’s really getting used to the oval and getting used to the footing, and I couldn’t be happier with the way he’s going.”
I’ll Have Another will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years at the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 9.
O’Neill said jockey Mario Gutierrez will arrive in New York June 4 and will be at the track the following morning.
“Hopefully for us he’ll have a couple of (additional mounts), other than I’ll Have Another,” said O’Neill. “And with the help of Mark Hennig and Wesley Ward, there’ve been a few other trainers who have offered to give him some chances.
"His agent, the legendary Ivan Puhich, will be here with him. Ivan has probably been on the phone, hustling some, and we’re hoping to give him 10 mounts before the big race.”