Trainer Doug O'Neill has picked a tough spot for his promising colt I'll Have Another , who returns from a five-month absence in the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 4 at Santa Anita.
I'll Have Another, owned by Paul and Zillah Reddam, will be facing a strong field of 3-year-olds led by the first two finishers in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) in December, winner Liaison and runner-up Rousing Sermon. He'll also be making his first start around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile Lewis.
The swift son of Flower Alley won at first asking at Hollywood Park in front-running style over a maiden special weight field in July. He came right back a month later to post a good second in Del Mar's 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal Stakes (gr. II), finishing 1 3/4 lengths behind eventual grade I winner Creative Cause after setting the pace.
But things came apart in Saratoga's Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5 when I'll Have Another caught a sloppy track for his first start on dirt. He broke poorly, raced wide, and was never a factor while finishing sixth. O'Neill said he also came out of the race with a shin injury. The colt has not raced since.
O'Neill said I'll Have Another was given about six weeks off before his return to training for what the conditioner anticipates will be a big sophomore campaign.
"We've liked him from the start," he said. "He's always shown us that he has a lot of talent. We're looking for big things."
Paul Reddam and O'Neill's brother Dennis picked the chestnut colt out of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's spring sale of 2-year-olds in training last April for $35,000. I'll Have Another is out of the Arch mare Arch's Gal Edith.
O'Neill thinks I'll Have Another will adjust well to added distance in his return. "He's very athletic," he said. "He's got a nice long stride and a very intelligent look about him. We're excited about him."
He said the trip to Saratoga was in part to see how I'll Have Another would respond to racing on dirt, a prerequisite for any potential contender for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
"If you are thinking about the Kentucky Derby, and we think he has that kind of ability," he said, "then you've got give dirt a try."
But as it worked out, they weren't able to learn much from the cross-country sojourn. They should get a better opportunity in the Lewis. O'Neill has brought I'll Have Another up to the race with progressively longer works on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track. He turned in his second seven-furlong drill Jan. 27 in a smart 1:26 flat.
I'll Have Another is a likely candidate to set the pace in the Lewis.
"He's going two turns for the first time and he's going to be fresh," O'Neill noted.
The trainer said he will wait to see how I'll Have Another performs in the Lewis before deciding what's next.
As far as the horse's name, O'Neill said it came from the Reddams. "Paul and Zillah came up with that and neither one of them drink (alcohol), so I don't know. It sounds like something I would have come up with, but it wasn't me."