The grueling one-and-a-half-mile run at the Belmont Stakes is all that stands between I’ll Have Another and the Triple Crown. Belmont has doused the fires of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners time and time again, and now I’ll Have Another will take the “test of champions” and try to become the first horse to win the Derby/Preakness/Belmont since Affirmed in 1978. Besides having one of the greatest horse names I have heard in a while, I’ll Have Another has the ability to come from behind at any point in a race and get the victory. He proved it to us in both the Kentucky Derby and The Preakness. I’ll Have Another ran down Bodemeister (The favorite in both races) twice. Beating Bodemeister once by a full length at the Derby and by a nose at the Preakness. I’ll Have Another has done something that not many horses have done, and he has a scary similarity to the last winner of the Triple Crown, Affirmed. in 1978 when Affirmed won the Triple Crown, the horse won both races by the same lengths that I’ll Have Another won by.
Now in all seriousness, as a sports fan, winning the Triple Crown may be the most difficult thing to do in sports. Only 11 horses since 1900 have swept the three most famous races in sports. I just don’t know if I’ll Have Another has the ability to sweep the Triple Crown. But saying a horse, any horse, won’t win the Triple Crown is rather like saying the Cleveland Browns won’t win the NFL title or I won’t be on “Dancing with the Stars.” Some limbs are sturdy enough to support an elephant, should he foolishly choose to step out on one. But if you are a believer in miracles, game-winning comebacks, and beating unbelievable odds, I’ll Have Another may have a chance in your heart. In other words, although it’s highly unlikely, I’ll Have Another just might do it: He might become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to sweep the famed Triple Crown and grab all the jewels, moving from Kentucky to Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes on May 19 and then on to New York for the Belmont Stakes and a coronation on June 9. Trainer Doug O’Neill is as excited as it gets to see the horse he has famously trained, get a chance to win the Triple Crown. “I get goose bumps just thinking about it,” said O’Neill, speaking Sunday morning at his barn in the Churchill Downs stable area. “I think this is the kind of colt who can maintain his form and keep it going.”
I’ll Have Another has the classic tactical speed, and that, in an agreement with Lady Luck and the racing gods, kept him out of trouble at the Preakness. While Bodemeister sprinted headlong to the front and others indulged in full “Bode-chase,” I’ll Have Another happily remained eight lengths behind, cruising. It was a masterful move by jockey Mario Gutierrez, but I’ll Have Another had the intelligence to accept the direction and the talent to be there. As we all saw I’ll Have Another come bolting down the outside, none of us thought he was going to catch the favorite, Bodemeister.
I’ll Have Another has a chance to become a part of history and do something that hasn’t been done since 1978. Many horses have had the chance to win the coveted prize but many have failed at the tricky Belmont Stakes. The most recent was Smarty Jones in 2004, who fell apart at Belmont and finished 2nd, just missing the Third Jewel. As discussed earlier, the length of the Belmont Stakes is a grueling one-and-a-half-mile run that can chew up and spit out even the best of horses. There will be no gate-to-wire winner here, and the jockeys have a lot of responsibility in this race. I’ll Have Another has defied the odds twice now, but the distance of this race will be the ultimate test.