Courtesy of the NYRA and Churchill Downs publicity teams:
I’ll Have Another, who on June 9 will attempt to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner in the Grade I, $1 million Belmont Stakes, had a second tour of Belmont Park’s main track Thursday morning, jogging 1 ½ miles in company with a pony.
“It looks like he gets over the track fantastic,” said trainer Doug O’Neill’s assistant, Jack Sisterson. “He looked super, his energy level is high and he’s doing everything we want to see him doing.
“He’s reaching over the ground well,” he added. “Back at Hollywood, he’s got the exact same stride as he has here at Belmont. He had the same one at Churchill Downs and the same one at Pimlico.”
I’ll Have Another’s schedule calls for him to resume galloping Friday morning as he prepares for the 1 ½-mile Belmont and the chance to join the 11 equine legends who have swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. In the 34 years since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, 11 horses have come into the Belmont Stakes with a chance to sweep the series only to come up short in the Belmont, most recently Big Brown in 2008.
For video of I’ll Have Another on the track, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7au0rZlSbzI&feature=youtu.be
Grade I winner Union Rags, who is expected to be among I’ll Have Another’s main challengers for the Belmont, tuned up for that expected run on Thursday by breezing five furlongs in 1:01 at Fair Hill in Maryland
“I was looking for him to go in 1:01,” said trainer Michael Matz. “He went nicely. We’re happy with him, and he’ll have one more work next week.”
Exercise rider Peter Brette was at the helm on Thursday, with jockey John Velazquez possible to be aboard Union Rags for his final breeze before the Belmont Stakes, Matz said. The Belmont will be Union Rags’ first race with Velazquez in the saddle as he’ll replace Julien Leparoux, who rode Union Rags to a victory in the Fountain of Youth, a third in the Grade I Florida Derby, and a seventh in the Kentucky Derby.
In other Belmont news, trainer Mark Casse announced that Stealcase, third in the Derby Trial last time out, would not run contest the final leg of the Triple Crown and instead point for the Grade III Matt Winn at Churchill Downs on June 16.
“We want to get him some confidence and it looks like the Belmont is going to come up pretty tough,” Casse said.
The Larry Jones trained Mark Valeski, winner of the Grade II Peter Pan, has also been all but ruled out of the Belmont.
“It’d be really strange if we went,” Jones said. “I’d say there’s about a .44 percent chance we run. I don’t think he need a lot (of time off) but I don’t want to turn him around and run him again so quickly and then knock him out for the summer. The number one priority for us now is the Travers.”