Tue May 29 11:47am EDT
Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another will have a lighter workload then most horses prepping for the June 9 Belmont Stakes, so says trainer Doug O'Neill.
Speaking at his first press conference since his horse won the Preakness last weekend, O'Neill told reporters at Belmont Park on Sunday morning that I'll Have Another will have a light schedule leading up to the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. Sunday represented the first time that O'Neill has seen his horse since the win at Pimlico. Shortly after the win, I'll Have Another then made the trip north to New York City and has been cared for by O'Neill's staff during that time.
During his morning workout with O'Neill looking on, I'll Have Another "Jogged four or five furlongs; galloped seven furlongs" according to his trainer.
"He looked great," O'Neill said.
"His appetite is strong, his stride is there - his coat looks great. Everything they were seeing, I got to see with my own two eyes."
Typically, a trainer will have at least one official workout if not two between the Preakness and Belmont to help prepare the horse for the track and the heat of New York City in early June. But O'Neill plans on keeping the horse's training light over the next 13 days so that I'll Have Another will be as fresh as possible. The logic is perhaps sound with Union Rags, a favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, arriving at Belmont Park fresh, having skipped the Preakness.
The momentum is building for O'Neill and his horse, which has won its last four races including the buildups to the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Given the short turnaround between races coupled with the length of the track — the Belmont Stakes is the longest of the three Triple Crown races at 1 ½ miles — O'Neill doesn't want to over train a horse that has been ridden hard in two high-profile races over the past three weeks.
That lack of an official workout leading up to the Stakes doesn't mean that the horse won't be pushed in the morning workouts, just not by trainer or jockey Mario Gutierrez, who arrives at Belmont on Tuesday. Rather than have one grueling workout, O'Neill is confident that his horse's innate competitive nature is enough to keep sharp and fit heading into the biggest race of the trainer's career.
"There will be a lot of days where I'll Have Another, just strictly galloping, will pass workers. He gallops like an average horse works," O'Neill said.
"The amount of energy he puts into his gallops is the reason why an official workout isn't important in my mind."
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer