Doug O'Neill sports Mets cap

Updated: June 2, 2012, 8:00 PM ET
Associated Press

Doug O'Neill knows how to play to a New York audience.

The morning after Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in New York Mets history, the trainer of Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another showed up for his Belmont Stakes news briefing June 2 sporting a Mets cap.

A security guard at his colt's barn gave him the cap that morning, and O'Neill popped it right on his head.

"A good friend of mine, Keith, gave it to me," said O'Neill, who lives in Southern California. "He was pumped up. It's a historical event. Their first no-hitter. The Kings are trying to win their first Stanley Cup and there's this 34-year deal (without a Triple Crown winner). I'll do anything that keeps the positive mojo going."

O'Neill said I'll Have Another went through his normal routine of a half-mile jog and one-mile gallop over a sloppy track at Belmont Park, which received 1½ inches of rain overnight.

"We were on a very nice, safe, fresh track, and I'll Have Another galloped like a champ over it," he said.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will attempt to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner in the Belmont Stakes on June 9. The last horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont was Affirmed in 1978.

Before Sunday's gallop, O'Neill plans to have I'll Haver Another walk from his barn through the tunnel leading to the paddock area, where the horses will be saddled before the 1½-mile Belmont.

Mario Gutierrez, the colt's jockey who has never been to the track, is scheduled to arrive on the night of June 4, and may get a chance to ride in a race the following afternoon over the same Belmont distance.

O'Neill's Boxer Des Rues might run in the Brooklyn Handicap, but is recovering from a right front foot bruise and his status is uncertain. A trip over the track could be helpful to a rider who is new to New York racing.

"The fact that the race starts at the same spot where the Belmont starts, I think it would be a great help for Mario to get it under his belt," O'Neill said. "If the horse is not right, he won't run, but as of this morning, so far so good."

Once the 25-year-old jockey arrives, he'll be making several off-track appearances as well. He will be at the Empire State Building on Tuesday, and is scheduled to appear on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" on Thursday night, according to the marketing company arranging Team O'Neill's schedule.


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press