BELMONT , N.Y. – Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another was reunited with his regular exercise rider, Jonny Garcia, Tuesday morning for his routine gallop over Belmont Park ’s main track in preparation for the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9.
The 25-year-old Garcia, who had not been aboard I’ll Have Another since he added the Preakness to his victory in the Kentucky Derby, said the chestnut colt felt just the same as he did before winning the first two legs of racing’s Triple Crown.
“He feels the same now and he feels like the same horse,” said Garcia, speaking through fellow exercise rider and interpreter Humberto Gomez, who had galloped the horse the past four mornings. “I think [ Belmont Park ] is pretty much the same [as Churchill Downs and Pimlico]; the only difference is that this track is a little heavier.”
O’Neill had nothing but praise for Gomez and Hector Ramos, who had filled in for Garcia at Belmont while he went to visit his family and then awaited his license to work as an exercise rider in New York , which he received Monday evening.
“I’ll Have Another has looked good every day here, but it’s nice having Jonny back on him and having Jonny tell me how he feels so good, that he’s handling the surface great and is stretching as good as ever,” said the trainer. “He’s been on him since Day 1. So that’s definitely an added bonus to a great day.”
I’ll Have Another, who noticeably picked up the pace coming through the stretch Tuesday morning, is scheduled to gallop into the 1 ½-mile Belmont, in which he is seeking to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed in 1978.
“He gallops strong,” said O’Neill. “We’re not too worried about the times, more so with how he’s moving and switching leads out there. You can tell, especially with the four white polo bandages, by the dirt covering all four bandages equally, how he’s switching properly all the way around. I was very happy with the way he looked today.”
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Richard Migliore knows his away around the Belmont Park oval, having won 1,352 races from 9,922 mounts at the venue during his 30-plus year career. During the week of the Belmont Stakes, the retired jockey will share his Belmont expertise by circumnavigating the 1 ½-mile main track on horseback with Mario Gutierrez, who will attempt to sweep the Triple Crown aboard I’ll Have Another in the June 9 Belmont Stakes.
During the tour, which likely will be conducted June 6 or 7, Migliore will ride five-time Grade 1 winner Lava Man, who now serves as I’ll Have Another’s pony. Gutierrez will be aboard a horse from trainer Doug O’Neill’s barn that has yet to be determined. In 2007, Migiliore guided Student Council to an upset victory over Lava Man in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
In addition to serving as a television analyst for NYRA, Migliore works as a racing office associate and oversees the association’s apprentice jockey program.