- Road to the Kentucky Derby
- Racing & Wagering
Belmont They Said It
"The barn is ridiculous. There's too many horses in there doing the same things at the same times. There's too many people in there. There's three or four people for every horse, and then everybody trying to walk in in the afternoons and graze. It's just ridiculous. They could have found such an easier way to accommodate the horse, and I don't think anybody who set that barn up or made the rules was thinking about the horse. (Applause)."
—Dale Romans, trainer of Dullahan, on the Belmont Stakes security barn
"I will say that NYRA did the best job they could possibly do to make a bad situation good. They fixed the barn up as nice as it could possibly be. The whole area is as well prepared as it possibly could be. Well, I know it's not NYRA, it's the racing world. But there's a huge disconnect between the regulators and what's the reality of the back side. Now that's a major problem in horse racing in my opinion."
—Romans on the gap between bureaucrats and practical horsemanship
"You know, Dale has got a huge point. It's obviously an inconvenience for everybody, and you know, I think we are just -- the State is trying to show everyone how clean the game is and that it's not polluted with a bunch of crooks and cheaters like some people have written about."
—Doug O'Neill, trainer of Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another, chimes in on the security barn
"Well, what this situation does is it brings back perception to the game. They could have quietly put guards on every horse and never been talked about in the paper. I think this causes poor perception and it makes people think even worse of the game; when really, this is a very clean sport. It's run properly. There's enough regular checks and balances put into place to make sure it's an even playing field, and this whole thing isn't really necessary."
—Romans on what could have been an alternative to the security barn
"I'll vote for Dale if he's the national commissioner. Go ahead, run for commissioner. That's what we need, a horseman who has the huevos to say what's right, and you're completely right. But hopefully it's just a clean-run race and everyone is settled by Saturday."
—O'Neill endorses Romans for national commissioner
"This is true. The horses seem to be fine. It's not going to affect the outcome of the race, I don't believe. But it just not right to take them out of their environment and move them out somewhere else three days out from the biggest day of their life."
—Romans responds to O'Neill's last comment
"If I get beat, I'm going to blame the security barn."
—O'Neill has his alibi ready in case of a loss
"And that's the problem, the rest of the world will, too, and that's not fair to the horse that wins. But no, I don't think the barn will get the horses beat. These are classy horses. They are strong-minded horses, or they would not have gotten to this level. I don't think it's going to affect the outcome of the race. But it may affect public opinion after the race. If Doug's horse were to happen to lose, it will be human nature for people to say, well, they got him in the detention barn. That's not fair. It diminishes his performance in the first two races of the Triple Crown, and it will also diminish the winner's performance in the Belmont."
—Romans on how the security barn could unfairly influence fans' reaction to the outcome
"He's settled right in like we thought he would. We had a really good day of training today. I thought he showed good energy and he cooled out really well. So we are very happy with where we are here two days out."
—O'Neill gives a positive bulletin on I'll Have Another
"The horse is. I'll Have Another is. (Laughter). I'll leave it at that. I hate to expose who does his translation. He has a hard time with the hoofs on the keys."
—O'Neill wisecracks his way out of a question about who tweets on I'll Have Another's behalf
"The fact that I'm follically challenged on top of my head, I kind of like it. It's a good way to hide a few chins if you're not working out regularly. So that's a good question. We'll have to kind of -- that would be a good problem to have."
—O'Neill on whether he'll shave his beard if I'll Have Another sweeps the Triple Crown
"I think if he runs the Triple Crown, he should leave it on forever."
—Romans opines on the beard question
"This does help us. I think we would have been competitive in the Preakness. Yeah, having the extra time, you can do a few more things, try to get your horse ready to go a mile and a half and you can bring a fresh horse in here. It has to be beneficial."
—Romans on the advantages of Dullahan's skipping the Preakness
"I had never really heard of Mario before coming to the Derby. But I was impressed with his ride there, and even more impressed with his ride in the Preakness when it looked like Bodemeister was getting away from everybody, he showed presence of a veteran rider to sit and wait and knew his horse and knew he had enough horse to run him down. And I've been very, very impressed with the way he's handled himself in front of the press and the way he's handled everything in English, and seems like a good, young man."
—Romans on I'll Have Another's jockey, Mario Gutierrez
"He's a real pain in the ass, and he's very opinionated, and he won't listen to anything we say to him. So other than that -- no. You know, when Paul and Zillah (Reddam) mentioned using Mario, you could see he won like 27 percent of his races up at Hastings. So we knew he was a winner. But as we got to know him, we absolutely fell in love with his personality and just the way he's programmed and he's always giving thanks to the horse, so he's just a breath of fresh air for us. You know, obviously four-for-four, and I'll Have Another, those two get along so well. You know, I think Mario has always had a lot of talent, and he was just -- it took a horse like I'll Have Another to show all of us that it's here."
—O'Neill, both jocular and serious, on Gutierrez
"I started in Mexico, in Mexico City, the racetrack, it's huge. It's still a mile racetrack. So when I first moved to Vancouver (to ride at Hastings), I was in shock because you know, it's a little tiny racetrack, tight runs, like a lot of horses. So you really have to look at like what is the next play, what the guy beside you is doing. Otherwise accidents are going to happen, accidents happen really fast on those kind of racetracks. It did help me a lot, just to see where I am, like right now, you come after that six years of racing in Vancouver, coming here again to a big racetrack (at Belmont), you see more spaces and you can see more clear horses. You have a lot of space where you can move. You always have a second choice to make."
—Gutierrez on his riding background
"It is pretty big, mile and a half. I gallop a couple horses, I ran one horse today. It is big. I felt really comfortable. I was happy to go out there and just take a look around. But I'm not the only one who is going to be there. My other fellows are going to be there with me and we are all going to run the same distance."
—Gutierrez on getting acquainted with Belmont Park
"Well, it's very important, very important. Any help I can get before the race, like racing that long, it's going to be really good for me. I can go and see how it feels like to be on this kind of track and long distance race, so it's going to help a lot."
—Gutierrez on the benefit of riding Boxeur des Rues in Friday's Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap over the same 1 1/2-mile trip as the Belmont
"Yes, I did watch a lot of Belmont (Stakes replays) when I was in Vancouver (last week), actually. I watched the losers. I watched all the horses that tried and failed. It's still experience. I know there's a lot of things that I have to learn. If I show what I think I saw on the videos, it's just going to open doors to more people saying stuff about me. So I just prefer to keep it quiet and then no comment on anything. I'm going to take the race as a challenge for me like the other ones. It was first time for me Kentucky Derby and first time Preakness, and it's going to be the first time, so just going to do the same thing."
—Gutierrez on his extra preparation for the Belmont
"Well, I believe in my horse, right, but I'm not -- I respect everybody in the race, too, for a reason. I'm going to be looking over for every single one of them. It's not an easy race, so everybody is going out there to fight for the win and I'm going to do the same."
—Gutierrez on his rivals
"It's such an odd race and such an odd distance in American racing that I don't think anybody, any of us, have a really good handle on it. Talking to my jockey, I said, I don't want you to be quite as concerned with how fast you're going as you are with how much horse you have under you. Don't worry about if you're five lengths off or 10 lengths off. Just try to be in tune with the horse, how much horse you think you have, and just realize that you have a long ways to go, even when you start into the final turn. But that's -- we have got a good rider here; good, experienced jockey and hopefully he'll be able to handle it."
—Romans on his strategy session with jockey Javier Castellano, who will be riding Dullahan for the first time in a race
"Yeah, I agree with Dale. I think it's one of those where you know, to add to that, you just have to have a horse who can go a mile and a half, which like Dale said, we don't get a lot of opportunities to look for races like that. But I don't think you can take a horse that can't get a mile and a half and do anything special training-wise to get a mile and a half. So I think Dale and I both think our horses can get the distance, and it's just a matter of how they are feeling that day."
—O'Neill cuts to the chase
"Oh, I'm sure. I'll be pumped up and fired up. I'm sure I'll have an adult beverage or two in me before. Too bad you can't do that. That's what it's all about. This is the big stage and the whole enchilada, if you will. So this is what we are all dreaming about and not to add any pressure, it's not that big of a race really. It's just another race. As long as I'll Have Another continues to do as well as he is, I think we've got a big, big chance."
—O'Neill on his pre-race nerves
"Tequila. (Laughter). No, I think for Mario and I, I don't want to speak for Mario, it's our first go-around. So maybe if this was like our third or fourth go-around, it might be a little bit draining. But I think both of us have taken a lot of pictures along the way and just, you know, we are living it like we'll never be back here again and we're enjoying every aspect of it. So I think that's -- it's been more energizing than it has been draining."
—O'Neill on how he and Gutierrez have kept their focus during Belmont Week
"I mean, obviously other than the birth of my two kids, I don't know how it could get much better. And they are a pain in the ass every now and then. But it would be that kind of like 'wowing' moment. Yeah, just kind of have to -- hopefully it happens and I get a chance to experience that, and it would be awesome."
—O'Neill on what a Triple Crown would mean