After watching Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another gallop Tuesday morning over Belmont Park’s main track, trainer Doug O’Neill sought out the advice of one who has successfully been through the wringer before, spending about 40 minutes picking the brain of Billy Turner, trainer of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
“What a great man and a cool guy! He gave us a lot of helpful tips on how to prepare our guy for the big one,” O’Neill said. ” The one thing Billy said was … having the horse here earlier than later is a big edge. The fact that we’re here is huge. We talked about how not only do jockeys need to kind of figure out the oval, but horses do as well. Between the surface and the horses getting used to the oval, the earlier you’re here, the better.
“I had asked him about breezing, because I’m not planning on breezing I’ll Have Another. He said he only breezed Seattle Slew twice between the Preakness and Belmont because he needed to take the edge off him, because he was such a high energy horse. As you see I’ll Have Another is a pretty mellow horse, really.”
During a national teleconference on Wednesday, Turner said he was impressed with the how much attention to detail O’Neill and his team were paying to this Triple Crown attempt adding that every question his fellow trainer asked was “the right one.”
“He asked me the same questions that I asked the people in Kentucky when I went down there for the Derby because I wasn’t that familiar with Kentucky and how they do things,” Turner said. “Doug wanted to know the ins and outs of training on a mile and a half race course, he wanted to know if he could use the paddock in the morning and things like that, what I thought of the gate crew. Those are the right questions. He is very astute and he is covering all bases. He is taking this thing very seriously.”
Though Turner sees I’ll Have Another as a completely different horse that Seattle Slew, he also sees some of the intangibles in the son of Flower Alley he believes is necessary for him to become the 12th Triple Crown winner.
“With I’ll Have Another, he’s just the kind of horse you can do anything with,” Turner said. “He has speed and you can use it, but you don’t have to with him. The way they train him for the race would be entirely different than the way we trained Slew. In Slew’s case, everything that we ever did with him it was a day to day thing more or less. You had to deal with the physical thing and the mental thing, so you just couldn’t compare him with what’s going on with I’ll Have Another. They’re just two entirely different horses.”
O’Neill said he sees signs every day that I’ll Have Another is growing accustomed to Belmont Park’s 1 ½-mile oval.
“I think every day he’s gone a little better,” he said. “He’s switching leads perfectly, (exercise rider) Jonny (Garcia) is happy with him. Cooling out every day, he’s recovering quicker, so that’s a great sign. We’re very happy with the way he’s maintained his stride and the way he’s handling his daily gallops.”
Patrice Wolfson, who co-owned 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed, added during the teleconference that after 34 years of holding onto the mantel of having the last horse to accomplish the historic sweep, she was ready to have I’ll Have Another pick up and relight the torch.
“I think this horse (I’ll Have Another) has a lot of tenacity,” Wolfson said. “He really loves to run and looks like he wants to win. He looks like he would be a good successor if it comes about. There were times I didn’t feel we were ready to relinquish it. But maybe the time has come now and I certainly think racing needs a horse that will bring a lot of excitement. And this little guy can do that. He can be very exciting.”
For video of Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, at Belmont Park Wednesday morning please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?
** For video of Dale Romans and Allen Jerkens discussing what it takes to have a horse prepared for a 1 ½-mile race, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?
** For video of Belmont Stakes contender Dullahan galloping at Belmont Park this morning and comments from trainer Dale Romans, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?