Although plans for Doug O’Neill to throw out the first pitch at the June 8 New York Mets-Yankees game were cancelled, the trainer of I'll Have Another started off the day by throwing a curve to the large media horde that gathers each morning at Belmont Park.
The 3-year-old Flower Alley colt went to the track at 5:30 a.m. EDT to avoid traffic at Belmont Park's Barn 2 after the Belmont horses work between 8:30-8:45 a.m. He jogged a half-mile, then galloped one mile in company with Lava Man.
“It’s been very hectic the last few days, so we thought we would take him out when it’s quieter,” O’Neill said. “The detention barn setup with all 12 of the horses going out at the same time has been a little bit hectic. The simple thing of just trying to find a place to bathe your horse has been kind of congested. We thought we would come out early, and it would be quieter. Hopefully he will be back resting in his stall when 8:30 rolls around and a lot of the hectic activity starts. We want to get him in the quietest frame of mind leading up to the biggest race of his life.”
I’ll Have Another jogged a half-mile and then galloped an “easy” mile, all in company with Lava Man, in his last appearance on the track before Saturday’s race, in which he will be seeking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
“He is fit and ready to go and we are just trying to let him bring as much energy to the table tomorrow as possible,” O’Neill said. “We thought giving him an easy day the day before would be a good move. He stayed with coach Lava Man just to keep everything off-speed. I was very pleased with it. Perfect. We are ready to roll.”
O’Neill, who has had a hectic on- and off-the-track schedule since I’ll Have Another won the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), had to cancel a planned visit to Yankee Stadium June 8, where he would have thrown out the ceremonial first pitch. When the event was scheduled, O’Neill and his connections did not realize it would conflict with the approximate 5:44 p.m. post time for the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. I), in which he will saddle Boxeur des Rues. The colt, entered at 12-1 morning line odds, is owned by Reddam Racing and will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez, the owner and jockey, respectively, of I’ll Have Another.
O’Neill was not the only trainer to send their Belmont entrants to the track earlier than 8:30.
As he did the previous day, Breen sent George and Lori Hall’s My Adonis to the track not long after it was open for training. He said there were not many horses on the track at that time of day and the surface was still in good shape.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas also sent out Optimizer early, noting that colt, who like I’ll Have Another will be contesting all three Triple Crown races when he goes to post in the Belmont, is doing great since his arrival in New York.
“All of my horses are doing well here,” said Lukas, who was still having some headaches associated with an injury he suffered earlier in the week when Hamazing Destiny reared and kicked him in the head.