Another chapter in history

Another chapter in history
Another chapter in history
Sky Sports Racing News

It is already a tale with many of the ingredients for a true American classic.

A triumph over adversity and a plucky hero feature in the script for this year’s Triple Crown and all that remains is for I’ll Have Another to play his part and win Saturday night’s Belmont Stakes for the blockbuster ending.

While the possibility of Camelot securing a rare English Triple Crown in September’s'St Leger whets the appetite, it will send larger ripples through the general public across the Atlantic if I’ll Have Another becomes the first since Affirmed in 1978 to capture a US sporting institution.

Little-known Mexican jockey Mario Gutierrez has taken his big break with both hands, helping the chestnut to claw back the front-running Bodemeister in the final strides of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

History reminds us how hard it is to crack the Belmont Stakes too, as I’ll Have Another will either become the 12th Triple Crown champion or the 12th to fail at the third stage since Affirmed’s achievement.

The feat must be accomplished in the space of five weeks over a variety of distances and with the final event unusually being around a mile and a half of ‘Big Sandy’, as the New York track is known, it is self-explanatory why it is referred to as the Test of the Champion.

Familiar Silks

If this all sounds a bit too high on the apple pie schmalz-factor for the traditional British racing fan, at least I’ll Have Another’s purple and white colours will be familiar as they belong to Paul Reddam, owner of horses such as Crowded House and Red Rocks, who ran with such distinction for Brian Meehan.

“Everyone said we were second best in the Kentucky Derby and that Bodemeister should have won, so it was so great to see him prove it again in the Preakness,” recalls Jamie McCalmont, racing manager to Reddam, a Canadian-born businessman.

“We always thought the Preakness would be the difficult one, as it’s often harder to step down in trip than back up, as you do in the Belmont, so we’re not worried.”

The bloodstock agent goes on to recall I’ll Have Another’s family tree in incredible detail to support his belief there is enough stamina in his pedigree.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” McCalmont continues.

“I’ve had some great moments with the horses, like Red Rocks winning the Breeders’ Cup and getting to big races in Dubai and in Europe, but this is incredible. When you’re over there, you would not believe the amount of people who just want to talk about it.”

Brushes With Authority

It would perhaps be more positive to dwell on Gutierrez than I’ll Have Another’s trainer Doug O’Neill, who has had brushes with authority in the past and is shortly to serve a 45-day suspension for one of his horses testing positive for an elevated total carbon dioxide level.

O’Neill was having lunch with Reddam at the start of the year and, with the pair on the look-out for a rider for I’ll Have Another, Reddam put forward the surprising name of Gutierrez.

The 25-year-old was invited to road-test the nascent Derby prospect in a piece of work and the partnership was formed.

McCalmont explains: “He came back and said to his agent (octogenarian legend Ivan Puhich, who unearthed Gutierrez at a barbecue a few months earlier) that there was no way he’d get to ride the horse in a race.

“But he’s an excellent rider and gave him a dream ride in the Robert B Lewis Stakes and then the Santa Anita Derby.

“Mario’s a guy who’d come from Hastings Park in Canada, that’s like coming from somewhere like Hamilton Park and finding yourself winning your first Grade One, then winning a Triple Crown race on your first ride.

“He’s won on the horse every time he has ridden on him. He hasn’t ridden around Belmont yet, but I know they are getting him a few rides beforehand.”

Affirmed Similarities

McCalmont notes the last jockey to have won the Triple Crown, a certain Steve Cauthen, has been supportive rather than concerned about losing his place in the history books.

“I was reading some things Steve said in the press,” he says. “He said he felt Affirmed was a similar horse to I’ll Have Another in that they both kept improving and improving and they had the same fighting spirit.

“He also said people had been asking him what advice he’d give to Mario. He said the best thing he could do for Mario was just to keep away from him until after the Belmont. I think that shows what class of guy he is.”

Dullahan and Union Rags, third and an unlucky-looking seventh respectively in the Derby, stand in the way of I’ll Have Another’s charge to immortality, and will have new jockeys this time around.

However, O’Neill’s would-be history maker is odds-on locally and connections seem unfazed by his draw in stall 11 of the 12 runners.

View the original article at Sky Sports Horse Racing News

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