Trainer O’Neill likes I’ll Have Another’s chances for Triple Crown
Trainer O’Neill likes I’ll Have Another’s chances for Triple Crown
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.
Heart and courage needed as Liverpool and Roma prepare for Champions League semifinal
- Both sides shocked more-fancied opposition to reach last four.
- Tremendous atmosphere expected in first leg at Anfield.
If football is about guts and glory, about matches that linger in the mind long after the final whistle has blown, the Champions League fulfils a curious role. On the one hand it is both symbol and agent of much that is wrong in modern football, the corporate culture, the ludicrous inequality of resources that have rendered many domestic leagues processions. But on the other it does offer more chances for those immortal nights than any other competition — and perhaps particularly so when the teams involved are Liverpool and Roma.
Roma have not won Serie A since 2001; Liverpool have not won the English top flight since 1990. These are not sides who will take success for granted. Whatever happens in the remainder of this season, fans of both teams will remember their quarterfinals with fondness: Liverpool for the way their side twice beat the runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City, a 20-minute blast in the first-half of the first leg in which they scored three times proving decisive; and Roma for their remarkable comeback from 4-1 down after the first leg to go through on away goals.
Roma again have the second leg at home, where they are yet to concede in the Champions League this season, having shut out sides of the calibre of not only Barcelona but also Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. That is, theoretically, an advantage but equally it is hard to conceive of this Liverpool side failing to score anywhere, which in turn means that Roma probably need a goal at Anfield. Liverpool themselves, for all their reputation for defensive fallibility, have kept clean sheets in each of their last four home Champions League games, and have generally been much improved at the back since the arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January.
That development is part of an overall sense of progress at Liverpool. In that regard, Jurgen Klopp is in a similar position to Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. It is evident that there has been an improvement in each year he has been at the club but there is a growing sense that it would be nice for that to be validated by a trophy. And if that trophy can be the Champions League, so much the better.
Perhaps there are still concerns that the midfield does not offer the central defenders quite the protection it could, particularly when the full-backs are as attacking as they are, but Liverpool now have options in that area — and will probably perm three from Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Georgino Wijnaldum — and have a unit that is quick, powerful and combative.
Given how Juventus wilted in the last 16 against Tottenham’s press, that physical advantage Premier League teams perhaps have over Italian sides, could be a major factor — particularly given the likelihood that Roma will start with the 34-year-old Daniele De Rossi as a fairly static playmaker behind Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan.
Against Barcelona, Eusebio Di Francesco opted for a back three for only the second time this season. That was probably a specific ploy to overman Barca’s 4-4-2 in the center. A return to the more familiar 4-3-3 seems likely here but one of the beauties of games at this stage, particularly in cauldrons like Anfield and the Olimpico, is that at least as important as the tactics are more visceral factors, like heart and courage.
MOHAMED SALAH v FEDERICO FAZIO
The first question any opposition manager has to answer when facing Liverpool is how to deal with Mohamed Salah who has scored 41 goals this season, cutting from the right into the space created when Roberto Firmino drops deep. One way to counter him might be to use a right-footed left-back to deal with those incursions inside, much as Rafa Benitez once switched Alvaro Arbeloa to the ‘wrong’ flank to deal with Lionel Messi. More likely here, though, is that the left-sided center-back Federico Fazio will be asked to guard against him, even if that means stepping out from the back-line. That, in turn, increases the defensive responsibility on Daniele De Rossi. There may even be a case for bringing in Juan Jesus, who did such a good job against Messi, either instead of Fazio or at left-back in place of the injury doubt Aleksandar Kolarov.