I'll Have Another heads to track early Friday as trainer tries to keep him relaxed

Not the beverage koozie.

A couple of weeks that have been choked by distraction for Doug O'Neill and his Triple Crown contender  I'll Have Another came to a head Friday when it was announced that "vendor error" had canceled a giveaway in the colt's honor.

He was supposed to adorn koozies -- yeah, those things that keep your beer from getting warm -- given to fans today.

O'Neill, despondent, declined comment.

OK. That last sentence isn't true. But the trainer on the cusp of running for the Triple Crown did take unusual action this morning when he brought his horse to the track at 5:30, right when it opened.

“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.”

The horse galloped and jogged at a reasonable pace, and continues to do well, O'Neill said.

I'll Have Another  has been portrayed by O'Neill as an unreasonably calm -- verging on lazy -- horse when he's not on the track. And O'Neill is as personable as can be, dealing with the media onslaught in New York with the same sarcastic, self-effacing humor he employed on quiet days in Baltimore before anyone really thought he could win a Triple Crown. But today's actions are an ackowledgement that the last few days, with the attention intensifying, have taken a toll.

Team O'Neill was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium tonight, but canceled because jockey Mario Gutierrez (more on him here) is riding in the Brooklyn Stakes tonight. It will give him the chance to ride the track at the Belmont distance of a mile-and-a-half about 24 hours before the big race.

It should be noted that not every omen has gone against O'Neill in recent days. Following racing at Belmont Park yesterday, a light rain fell through puffy clouds and two bright, full rainbows stretched through the sky to the East. O'Neill, who is Irish (could you guess?), wears a lucky shamrock tie for big races.

Make of it what you will. You'll have to do so, though, without sipping a delightfully chilled beverage from an I'll Have Another koozie.

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