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What a nerve-wracking week this must be for I’ll Have Another’s owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill, while they work towards becoming the first Triple Crown champions since 1978. The anticipation is starting to build in the media and the focus of the sports world will be on Belmont Park this Saturday as history is on the cusp of being made. The pressure off the track is likely exhausting for I’ll Have Another’s team, and you would think the race track would be the one place they could get away from that. That wasn’t the case last week during a routine morning workout.

Last Thursday morning I’ll Have Another was walking along the rail on the track at Belmont Park when he was nearly struck by another horse. Isleta, a three-year-old filly, was working and dumped her rider. She ran loose around the track and went between the rail and I’ll Have Another, actually grazing the boot of exercise rider Johnny Garcia. A collision could have been devastating, not only to the health of the horses involved, but to horse racing itself, as we sit just days away from a possible Triple Crown. The New York Racing Association (NYRA), just hours after the incident, allowed for an early morning session each day for Belmont Stakes participants only, lessening the chances for an incident. The fewer horses there are on the track, the less likely any close contact will be made between the horses and or human beings.

Last week the NYRA also imposed new regulations for horses that will race in the Belmont Stakes. The new regulations will sequester those horses in a barn that is further away from the track for deeper scrutiny of the horses and those who visit them. This includes blood testing the animals. O’Neill says he doesn’t believe that the new rules have been put in place to target him, although O’Neill has been suspended or fined 15 times in the past for medication-related offenses, the latest coming at the hands of the California Horse Racing Board. The board has suspended O’Neill for 45 days and fined him $15,000 for exceeding the limit of carbon dioxide, which can reduce the fatigue factor for a race horse. O’Neill commented on the change in complimentary fashion, but acknowledged that it has been an inconvenience; “They are just trying to prove to the public how awesome these animals are and how well they are taken care of. It’s kind of giving people a backstage, all-access pass and that’s great for the sport,” he said. “It just looks like it’s something they should of come up with and had figured out a week ago.” {1}

Avoiding Murphy’s Law will likely be a part of the agenda for the I’ll Have Another team just days before the Belmont Stakes, which is the oldest and longest of the Triple Crown events. Just like the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes will not be any easy task for I’ll Have Another. Howver, as he has proven in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, he is just catching his stride near the finish line. That approach Saturday could put Paul Reddam, Doug O’Neill, jockey Mario Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another into rarefied air!

{1} http://amarillo.com/sports/pro-sports/2012-05-31/ill-have-another-avoids-collision

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