The Belmont Stakes, run at New York’s Belmont Park on Saturday, sees I’ll Have Another attempting to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. The colt, trained by Doug O’Neill, is fully expected to win, and following the draw yesterday Eric Donovan, odds maker for the New York Racing Association, named him the 4/5 favourite.
Strangely, I’ll Have Another has not headed the market in any of his previous seven races, and it’s perhaps slightly surprising that he’s been elevated given that he goes from stall 11 in the 12-runner field. There have been only two winners of the race from that position in the last 100 years.
It didn’t seem to bother his trainer at all. O’Neill said yesterday, “We’ve been toward the outside in both the other Triple Crown races, so it’s a good spot to be in. It will allow us to see how the pace sets up.”
Immediately after the draw was made, all the horses were taken away to a secure “detention barn” where they will stay until raceday. This procedure is new, and other trainers have criticised the measure, sometimes referred to as the Doug O’Neill rule, which is designed to prevent any last minute illegal treatment of the horses. Dale Romans, who trains second favourite Dullahan, suggested, “They think we’re all crooks.”
For a few moments this afternoon it looked as though there might be an early success for I’ll Have Another’s owners Reddam Racing Ltd in the unlikely surroundings of leafy and wet Lingfield. They had Frege running in the opening race there, but after looking to hold every chance at the furlong mark, a pair of late finishers in Reliant Robin and Super Simon thwarted Brian Meehan’s charge, who came home fourth.
But the race that matters to the Reddam team is still two days away.