I’ll Have Another drew post position 11 on Wednesday at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York and was made the 4-to-5 favorite on the morning line in his quest to become the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years and seal his name in the pantheon of horse racing immortality.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride and it’s all because of the great I’ll Have Another,” trainer Doug O’Neill told Andy Serling after the draw. “His coat continues to shine. We couldn’t have asked for him to come into the race any better.”
In the 144th running of the $1-million Belmont Stakes (G1) against 11 other three-year-olds competing over 1 ½ miles, I’ll Have Another will go to the post as the favorite for the first time in the eighth start of his career.
In the history of the race, 60-of-143 (42%) Belmont Stakes have been won by the favorite, but in the last 16 years only Afleet Alex at even-money in 2005 and Point Given at 6-to-5 in 2001 scored as the bettor’s choice.
Seven of the 31 odds-on defeats in the Belmont Stakes have come from the 11 Triple Crown bids foiled since Affirmed won at 3-to-5 to sweep the classics in 1978.
For those 11 runners that have seen their Triple Crown dreams end at Belmont, the spoiler was either a longshot or the second choice, with Easy Goer (8-to-5) disposing of his rival, Sunday Silence, in 1989, Touch Gold (5-to-2) by less than a length over Silver Charm in 1997, Empire Maker (2-to-1) well clear of Funny Cide in 2003 and Victory Gallop (9-to-2) nosing out Real Quiet in 1998.
Both of this year’s potential second-choices skipped the Preakness Stakes (G1), with Dullahan drawing post position 5 and being made the 5-to-1 second choice on the morning line off a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and Union Rags landing in post position 3 at 6-to-1 after finishing seventh as the 5-to-1 second choice at Churchill Downs.
“I don’t think I’ll Have Another has gotten his full due yet,” said Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing, owners of Dullahan. “We’re going to do everything to keep him from winning, but if he does he will not only be a worthy Triple Crown winner but will have exceeded all expectations.”
After not being able to hold off I’ll Have Another under the Twin Spires or at Pimlico Race Course, Bodemeister is back home at Santa Anita Park regrouping, while his connections show up with 8-to-1 fourth choice Paynter breaking from post postion 9. The Awesome Again colt has fired a pair of morning bullets since drumming a weak bunch on the Preakness undercard and has the upside to be this good.
“From day one, Bob Baffert thought Paynter was better than Bodemeister,” their owner Ahmed Zayat told Serling. “He’s very talented. Distance should not be an issue. He’s developing at the right time and more versatile than people think.”
The other seven entrants would fall into the longshot category, with Street Life (post position 1 at 12-to-1) and Unstoppable U (post position 2 at 30-to-1) both having experience over “Big Sandy” and the only ones with a plausible chance at pulling the upset.
Street Life closed from far back after going five-wide to finish third, beaten less than two lengths, in the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) on May 12 and Unstoppable U beat an allowance optional claiming bunch by more than six lengths on April 27 to stay perfect through two starts.
“If the pace is a little slower in this race he’ll lay closer,” said Street Life’s trainer, Chad Brown, ahead of his first start in a Triple Crown race. “From what I’m seeing in training with the addition of blinkers he’s a little sharper and maturing and will turn into a more versatile horse. But, a horse is going to have to run the race of his life to beat I’ll Have Another.”
First run in 1867, six years before the first Preakness Stakes and eight before the first Kentucky Derby, the Belmont is the oldest of the Triple Crown races. Impeccable weather conditions along with plenty of hype set the stage to potentially break the record crowd of 120,139 who saw Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown attempt fall short against Birdstone in 2004.
Post time for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes is set for 6:48 p.m EDT with NBC’s 2 ½-hour telecast beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Below is the complete field, including post position, morning line and a brief comment.
PP Horse (Morning Line Odds) Comment
1. Street Life (12-to-1) Deep closer could appreciate marathon distance.
2. Unstoppable U (30-to-1) Unstoppable through two starts, but not against Grade 1 company.
3. Union Rags (6-to-1) Velazquez fifth different rider in eighth career start.
4. Atigun (30-to-1) Back on TC trail after beating much lesser on Derby under card.
5. Dullahan (5-to-1) Fresh and training up a storm. Likely second choice.
6. Ravelo's Boy (50-to-1) Off the board in all three starts this year.
7. Five Sixteen (50-to-1) Longest of no shots with only a maiden win to his credit.
8. Guyana Star Dweej (50-to-1) No match for Unstoppable U in yet another runner-up effort.
9. Paynter (8-to-1) Not as fast as Bodemeister, who wasn’t fast enough.
10. Optimizer (20-to-1) Why? Distanced in first two legs.
11. I’ll Have Another (4-to-5) Yes, please.
12. My Adonis (20-to-1) Last year’s winning connections not likely to repeat.
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