In his bid to win horse racing's elusive Triple Crown, I'll Have Another today was named a 4-5 favorite for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.
Immediately after the No. 11 post position and odds were announced, I'll Have Another's connections tweeted, "We drew post # 11 -- Brilliant."
Trainer Doug O'Neill said after the draw, "Unbelievable ride. Whole journey is just because of the great I'll Have Another." O'Neill left minutes later to oversee his horse's acclimation to the new Belmont Stakes Barn. All 12 of of the horses entered in the race must stable there and were due by noon today.
O'Neill said on his walk to the barn that he hoped to land a spot between 9 and 11.
"We’re happy," he said. "I think it’s a good draw. It’ll give Mario a chance to see what the others are doing. If they’re crawling we can go lead the crawl and if they’re flying he can kind of sit in behind. I think it’s good and you’re not sitting in the gate a long time either. There’s a lot of benefits to the 11-hole."
Meanwhile, his competitors vowed to not make it easy.
Dullahan, third at the Kentucky Derby (a length and a half behind I'll Have Another), was the second choice at 5-1. He'll start from the No. 5 post position. He did not run in the Preakness on May 19, and his ownership group and trainer are confident he thwart the Triple Crown bid.
Another horse who hasn't run since the Derby, Union Rags, based at Fair Hill in Elkton was the third choice at 6-1 in the early line. With a new jockey up, John Velazquez, Union Rags, seventh in the Derby, will start from the No. 3 post.
"Obviously we've been a little disappointed, but we really don't think he has run his race yet," owner Phyllis Wyeth said. "We think he can handle the mile-and-a-half."
Most handicappers envision a four-horse race, with Paynter, stablemate of I'll Have Another's primary rival, Bodemeister, being the other possible winner. At 8-1, he's the only other horse in the field with better morning line odds than 12-1 (five colts are at 30-1 or worse). His Beyer Speed Figure of 106 during an allowance race at Pimlico on Preakness day was the second fastest of the day to I'll Have Another's 109.
"Distance should not be an issue," owner Ahmed Zayat said. "He's more versatile than people think."
Trainer Bob Baffert, according to Zayat, originally thought that Paynter was more talented than Bodemeister, who was run down by I'll Have Another at both the Derby and Preakness.
The field for the 144th Belmont, approximate post time of 6:40 p.m. Saturday:
1. Street Life, 12-1
2. Unstoppable U, 30-1
3. Union Rags, 6-1
4. Atigun, 30-1
5. Dullahan, 5-1
6. Ravelo's Boy, 50-1
7. Five Sixteen, 50-1
8. Guyana Star Dweej, 50-1
9. Paynter, 8-1
10. Optimizer, 20-1
11. I'll Have Another, 4-5
12. My Adonis, 20-1Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun