Tuesday, June 5, 2012
O'Neill delays move to stakes barn
By Ron Mitchell Bloodhorse
Trainer Doug O'Neill said June 5 that he was holding off on relocating I'll Have Another to the barn set aside for Belmont Stakes horses at Belmont Park and that the move would now be made after morning training is over June 6.
O'Neill initially had said the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner would move to the barn after training hours on June 5. However, Team O'Neill and other connections of Belmont horses were to participate in a noon media event in midtown Manhattan. O'Neill said the scheduling of that luncheon would mean he would not be there to observe the move if it took place as originally planned.
Last week, the New York State Racing & Wagering Board notified trainers of Belmont horses that they would all be located within a barn set aside specifically for equine participants in the June 9 race. In addition to having all Belmont horses in one barn before the noon June 6 deadline, the NYSRWB also issued an extensive set of procedures and guidelines for activity in and out of the barn.
O'Neill said Lava Man, the gelding who earned $5 million on the track and is a stable pony who accompanies I'll Have Another to the track, will remain in Barn 9 at Belmont Park and will not go to the stakes barn.
"I think it would be too nerve-wracking for him," the trainer said. "He will still chaperon him [I'll Have Another] to the track every morning but I'm a little worried that Lava Man might get a little anxious."
As he has daily since his arrival at Belmont, I'll Have Another turned in another strong mile gallop June 5.
"Great stride, good energy," O'Neill said of the morning exercise regimen. "Three more days of galloping and hope we're lucky."
A son of Flower Alley, I'll Have Another is seeking to add the Belmont to his victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness to become racing's 12th Triple Crown champion.
While I'll Have Another's move was delayed, other Belmont horses were preparing to relocate to the barn that has been given a new paint job and other improvements for its new inhabitants.
As a NYRA worker was loading the last ladder out of the barn and into his van early the morning of June 5, a groom was walking Ravelo's Boy inside the barn. The Florida-based horse who will be a longshot in the Belmont had arrived late June 4 and was bedded down in Barn 2.
Some trainers have expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to have all Belmont horses in one barn.
Ken McPeek, who is planning to start Atigun in the Belmont and might have a second horse in the race with Unstoppable U, said he had no issue with the stakes barn.
"I think [the stakes barn] is a good move on their part," McPeek said. "We want the public to understand that this is a game that we take very seriously [as shown with] these details. We will be glad to place these horses wherever they want us."