Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes hero I'll Have Another, who on June 9 will attempt to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner in the $1 million Belmont Stakes, had a second tour of Belmont Park's main track Thursday morning, jogging 1 1/2 miles in company with a pony.
"It looks like he gets over the track fantastic," assistant trainer Jack Sisterson said. "He looked super, his energy level is high and he's doing everything we want to see him doing.
"He's reaching over the ground well," he added. "Back at Hollywood, he's got the exact same stride as he has here at Belmont. He had the same one at Churchill Downs and the same one at Pimlico."
I'll Have Another's schedule calls for him to resume galloping Friday morning as he prepares for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont and the chance to join the 11 equine legends who have swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
In the 34 years since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, 11 horses have come into the Belmont Stakes with a chance to sweep the series only to come up short in the Belmont, most recently Big Brown in 2008.
For video of I'll Have Another jogging at Belmont Park on Thursday, please click here.
Back at his base in Southern California, trainer Doug O'Neill commented on the Triple Crown chase.
"I'm having the time of my life," the personable trainer said. "We have an unbelievable racehorse, we have an unbelievable team and we have an unbelievable jockey. It's been an incredible run and we want to keep going. It's all good."
O'Neill will head to New York next week and the trainer wanted to make sure the members of Team O'Neill who are at Belmont Park with I'll Have Another get their due credit.
"The horse is surrounded by people who know what they're doing and are great horsemen,'' he said. "He's being treated like a king. Inosencio Diaz has been his groom throughout. Benjamin Perez is the foreman/walker. Tyler Cerin, who does therapy, is there. Savos Rivera and Jack Sisterson, both assistants, are there. Larry Jones, AKA Thumper, our chiropractor, is there.
"I've been in touch with (Sisterson) all throughout every day since I've been back in California. He's raving about how well he's doing. I get reports from him about 20 times a day. I text him back and forth all day about how he's eating, what's going on, is he walking the shedrow right now, everything. I've got so many great horses here, too, and it's a good balance to have the horses here and the champ back there. But I can't wait to get back.
"His training depends on the weather. The plan is to gallop him up to the race, but if for some reason we have to walk him a few days because of bad weather, then we'll have to put a breeze into him. If we're able to gallop strong every day, he'll gallop right into it.
"Jockey Mario Gutierrez is scheduled to go back the week of the race, so he'll ride the whole week at Belmont."
Donegal Racing's dual Grade 1 winner Dullahan, third in the Kentucky Derby in his most recent start, is scheduled to work at Churchill Downs on Saturday after the renovation break at approximately 8:30 a.m. (EDT). The chestnut son of Even the Score will van to Belmont Park on Sunday to continue his preparations for the Belmont Stakes, according to trainer Dale Romans.
Owner/trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal on Thursday confirmed Guyana Star Dweej likely will start in either the Belmont Stakes or the $90,000 Easy Goer overnight stakes on the Belmont undercard.
"I'm a typical New Yorker, and I prefer to give my people support by racing here," Shivmangal said. "I'd love to run at the other tracks, but this is my favorite place and my favorite track. And everybody loves to have a home-court advantage. If you're at home, you do things better than if you were at another track."
Guyana Star Dweej is 1-5-0 in 9 starts and was most recently seen finishing second by 6 1/4 lengths to Belmont contender Unstoppable U in an April 27 allowance at Belmont.
Shivmangal said he has nearly two weeks before he'll have to make a final decision, but in the interim is training Guyana Star Dweej as if he'll be competing in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.
"I want to get him accustomed to the mile and a half," said Shivmangal. "We start at the eighth-pole and gallop the entire mile and a half. He took it nicely today. Weather permitting, we're going to breeze Saturday and the following week. I'm not a big breezer; I do a lot of two-minute licks and two-minute clips."
Guyana Star Dweej was under consideration for the Preakness before Shivmangal decided to target the June 9 stakes instead.
"He grabbed a quarter before the Preakness, and because of the inclement weather we had we couldn't work him properly," Shivmangal said of the Eddington colt. "We didn't want to go into the Preakness half fit."
In other Belmont news:
John Oxley's Stealcase, third in Grade 3 Derby Trial in his most recent start, will skip the Belmont Stakes, according to trainer Mark Casse.
"He's not going to run in the Belmont," Casse said. "We're going to point for the (Grade 3) Matt Winn (at Churchill Downs on June 16)."
The Casse barn has always thought highly of Stealcase, who was purchased for $320,000 as a two-year-old in training.
"We want to get him some confidence and it looks like the Belmont is going to come up pretty tough," Casse said.
Stealcase, who breezed five furlongs on the fast main track at Churchill Downs on Thursday in 1:02 2/5 under Shaun Bridgmohan, would be making his fourth consecutive start in a Grade 3 in the Matt Winn, but Casse thinks the Lawyer Ron chestnut will prove himself to be a Grade 1-caliber horse.
"We're going to aim for the (Grade 1) Travers," Casse said referring to the "Midsummer Derby" which will be run at Saratoga on August 25.
Stealcase joined Brereton Jones' homebred Mark Valeski as being ruled out of the 1 1/2-mile classic.
"He's probably not going to the Belmont," trainer Larry Jones said. "It'd be really strange if we went. I'd say there's about a 0.44 percent chance we run."
Mark Valeski finished second in both the Grade 2 Risen Star and Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds earlier this year. The bay son of Proud Citizen was being pointed to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, but he was declared from the race on the Tuesday prior to the Run for the Roses.
After being taken out of consideration for the Derby, Jones saddled Mark Valeski in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park. The decision to skip the Derby and point for the Peter Pan worked out well for Mark Valeski, who won the race on May 12 by 1 1/4 lengths.
"I don't think he needs a (a lot of time off), but I don't want to turn him around and run him again so quickly and then knock him out for the summer," Jones explained. "The number one priority for us now is the Travers."