As he continues to prepare I'll Have Another for the June 9 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), trainer Doug O’Neill on May 30 recounted a conversation he had with trainer Billy Turner, who trained 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
“We spoke for 30-40 minutes,” O’Neill said after watching his colt gallop at Belmont Park. “What a great man and a cool guy! He gave us a lot of helpful tips on how to prepare our guy for the big one. The one thing Billy said was … having the horse here earlier than later is a big edge. The fact that we’re here is huge. We talked about how not only do jockeys need to kind of figure out the oval, but horses do as well. Between the surface and the horses getting used to the oval, the earlier you’re here, the better.”
If he wins the Belmont, I’ll Have Another will become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. The son of Flower Alley has posted scintillating come-from-behind victories in both the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I). O’Neill does not plan an officially timed workout for the colt before the Belmont.
“I had asked him about breezing, because I’m not planning on breezing I’ll Have Another," O'Neill said. "He said he only breezed Seattle Slew twice between the Preakness and Belmont because he needed to take the edge off him, because he was such a high energy horse. As you see I’ll Have Another is a pretty mellow horse, really.
“It was a great conversation and I let him know how much I appreciated him sharing his experience with us.”
O’Neill said he sees signs every day that I’ll Have Another is growing accustomed to Belmont Park’s unique 1 1/2-mile oval.
“I think every day he’s gone a little better,” he said. “He’s switching leads perfectly, [exercise rider] Jonny [Garcia] is happy with him. Cooling out every day, he’s recovering quicker, so that’s a great sign. We’re very happy with the way he’s maintained his stride and the way he’s handling his daily gallops.”
O’Neill and others on his training team were preparing to head to the New Jersey Devils matchup with the Los Angeles Kings in game one of the Stanley Cup finals at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
“We’re all pumped up,” said O’Neill, whose stable is based in Southern California. “We’re just pumped. A close second (to horse racing) would be a hockey playoff. Just the energy in the rink is going to be absolutely crazy. With the fact we’re from L.A., we have to be very conscientious to not be rooting too much for L.A. if we want to make it out of there alive. But, no, we’re pumped. It’s going to be a blast.”