Rather than take I'll Have Another out to exercise on a wet track Tuesday morning, trainer Doug O'Neill opted to keep the Kentucky Derby winner under cover and out of the heavy rain falling at Pimlico, where he is set to run in Saturday's Preakness Stakes.
"He's so fit, he's doing so well, I just decided to walk all the horses this morning. I'm glad I did," O'Neill said. "We all enjoy a day off from time to time. They all got a day off and the weather forecast is nice starting tomorrow through the weekend, so we can get right back to normal training tomorrow."
A few days after winning the Kentucky Derby, I'll Have Another jogged and galloped on the wet, sealed Pimlico track last week. O'Neill elected to keep it simple Tuesday and cancel training. Walking gives the horse a chance to be out of his stall, stretch his legs and look around, but doesn't have much of a cardiovascular benefit.
"With walking it's a rest day, where with jogging at least you're doing some form of exercise," O'Neill said. "I have no problem galloping on a wet track. It just seemed right. Looking at the weather, we're going to be fine tomorrow. Why chance a slip or something silly happening? I have three other horses here, too, and we walked the shedrow with all of them."
O'Neill's brother, Dennis, purchased I'll Have Another at the Ocala Breeders' Sale in April 2011. The colt was shipped to O'Neill's barn at Hollywood Park and entered training for racing. He developed quickly, winning his debut on July 3. Only one of the other 11 candidates for the Preakness, Daddy Nose Best, was more precocious and had an earlier start to his career last year: June 9 at Churchill Downs.
"He's always had a great disposition and a great attitude," O'Neill said. "Dennis bought three more babies (Monday night) at the Pomona sale. Hopefully, there is a I'll Have Another in one of those three. When you first get them in you're thinking great thoughts about all of them.
"As you start moving on with them, you can see them start separating themselves. He's always handled himself with a ton of class. He's always been a real quiet horse, which from my experience is the sign of a really good horse. You never know until the paddock, the post parade and the gate how they handle that. Some come unglued and some thrive on it. Ever since he's started, he's thrived on all that action."
I'll Have Another moved into stakes company in his next start and finished second to Creative Cause in the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar. That performance led to a cross-country trip to run in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga. He finished sixth on the sloppy track and came out of the race with an injured shin.
Last year and again this season, I'll Have Another has been able to move forward and handle each new challenge.
"A lot of that is just an individual thing," O'Neill said. "Like any other sport, you're prone to injuries. So we've just been very blessed, other than the shin hiccup we got at Saratoga, he's been injury-free. I think what enables you to start a horse maybe earlier than others, is their physical development and their mental development."
O'Neill said that jockey Mario Gutierrez would be in Baltimore in the next day or two and is scheduled to ride on Thursday's program.
O'Neill will meet with the media Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. (EDT) at the podium adjacent to the Preakness stakes barn.