BELMONT , N.Y. – After evading a loose horse on the Belmont main track on Thursday, I’ll Have Another turned in his customary one-mile gallop.
Prior to his gallop, Isleta, a 3-year-old maiden from the barn of Carl Domino, unseated her rider and ran off, passing within inches of I’ll Have Another and exercise rider Jonny Garcia.
“Once we dodged that, everything went well,” said O’Neill, who trains I’ll Have Another for J. Paul Reddam. “He jogged great, galloped super. I noticed every day he’s cooling out even quicker. He seems like he loves it here, and he’s really getting used to the oval and getting used to the footing, and I couldn’t be happier with the way he’s going.”
O’Neill discussed plans for Four Better and Unex Dali, who in company breezed four furlongs in 49 1/5 seconds on the Belmont main track Thursday. Four Better will be making her North American debut in the $90,000 Fama overnight stakes on June 7, with Unex Dali aiming for an allowance race on June 8. Mario Gutierrez, rider of I’ll Have Another, will have the assignment aboard Four Better and Unex Dali. Both races will be contested on turf.
“I really liked the way they both went,” said O’Neill. “They both finished up with good energy and pulled up really well. Hopefully those are good spots for the horses and good spots for Mario to gain some knowledge of the track, even though they’re both on turf.”
O’Neill said Gutierrez will arrive in New York on Monday and will be at the track Tuesday morning.
“Hopefully for us he’ll have a couple of [additional mounts], other than I’ll Have Another,” said O’Neill. “And with the help of Mark Hennig and Wesley Ward, there’ve been a few other trainers who have offered to give him some chances. His agent, the legendary Ivan Puhich, will be here with him. Ivan has probably been on the phone, hustling some, and we’re hoping to give him 10 mounts before the big race.”
O’Neill lamented withdrawing Reddam’s Boxeur des Rues from the June 8 Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap, which would have given Gutierrez an opportunity to compete over the Belmont Stakes’ course and distance.
“I was going to run him in the Brooklyn, but I haven’t really been super happy with the way he has trained the past few days, so I don’t think ‘Boxeur’ is going to run,” said O’Neill. “Somebody said [Gutierrez] might get a mount [in the Brooklyn ], and Paul’s been kind enough to say, ‘If you find a horse that would have a legitimate chance in there, [I’d] invest in it to help Mario.’ It would be great to have Mario get a chance to ride a mile and a half the day before the Belmont . It’s been talked about, but we’re kind of running out of time. Hopefully there’s a trainer out there with a horse that’s got a chance that still needs a pilot and will give Mario a chance.”