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Trainer O’Neill likes I’ll Have Another’s chances for Triple Crown

BALTIMORE: I’ll Have Another emerged from his dramatic Preakness Stakes triumph in excellent shape and has the temperament and stamina to win the Triple Crown, trainer Doug O’Neill said Sunday.
The Kentucky-bred chestnut can become the first horse to complete the holy grail of US thoroughbred racing winner since Affirmed in 1978 if he can win the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9 in New York.
“My dreams always ended with winning the Kentucky Derby,” O’Neill told reporters at Pimlico Racecourse on Sunday.
“They never were followed up with winning the Preakness and going to the Belmont. That’s a new dream now I’m waiting to pull off.”
I’ll Have Another overcame a three-length deficit in the stretch to pass the speedster Bodemeister in the final strides to win the $1 million Preakness Stakes by a neck on Saturday.
The race was a repeat of the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago when I’ll Have Another, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, chased down the fading Bodemeister to win by one and a half lengths.
“He looked great,” O’Neill said after checking on his colt early Sunday. “He had licked his feed tub. Once we cleaned the poultice off, his legs were ice cold. He had good energy.”
I’ll Have Another was loaded into a van and left for the Big Apple, where he will remain until the final and most gruelling race of the Triple Crown series.
O’Neill said the three-year-old colt should have no problems with the one and a half miles (2,414 meters) Belmont distance.
His sire, Flowers Alley, finished runner-up in the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Classic over a mile and a quarter (2,012m) while his dam, Arch’s Gal Edith, is from the same family that produced the 2010 Breeders’ winner Blame.
“He’s got a great confidence about him and he’s got the stride of a horse that a mile and a half won’t be a problem,” O’Neill said.
“He’s got the pedigree, so much stamina on the female side.
O’Neill said I’ll Have Another’s shin problems and subsequent five-month layoff had helped freshen him up for the demanding campaign.
He returned to the track this year to win the Grade II Robert Lewis on Feb. 4 and has raced only four times this season, and won them all.
“He’s lightly raced,” said the 43-year-old trainer. “He’s still a fresh, happy, thriving horse that just seems to be getting better and better.”
O’Neill will not have to worry about another challenge from Bodemeister, who flew back to California on Sunday and will skip the Belmont, known as the Test of Champions.
“I’ve had enough,” said trainer Bob Baffert.