With trainer Doug O'Neill looking on, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another had another routine morning at Belmont Park, jogging four furlongs and galloping seven furlongs over a wet main track under exercise rider Humberto Gomez as he continued preparations for the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9.
"He just skipped over (the track)," said O'Neill, speaking at his first daily press briefing after arriving from California earlier in the morning. "He looked great. The first couple of days we were at Pimlico the track had a light seal on it, so he skipped over that as well. It didn't seem to bother him at all.
"He's got such a beautiful way of going," the trainer added. "He just kind of skips over the ground anyway. The rider was happy with him, and we're real happy with him...just going in his stall and seeing him, knock wood, his legs are ice-cold, he had cleaned up his feed tub -- he continues to amaze me the way he's handled all this and continues to thrive."
O'Neill had not personally seen the chestnut son of Flower Alley since he departed Pimlico one week ago as racing's latest Triple Crown hopeful, looking to end the 34-year drought that has persisted since 1978 when Affirmed became the 11th and most recent horse to sweep the series.
"We have all the confidence in the world in I'll Have Another," O'Neill said. "As long as he continues to stay injury-free and healthy, I think he's going to be very tough."
O'Neill said that because I'll Have Another puts so much energy into his daily gallops, he will most likely go into the 1 1/2-mile Belmont without an official timed work between the final two legs of the Triple Crown.
"There will be a lot of days when, strictly galloping, I'll Have Another will pass workers," O'Neill remarked. "He gallops like an average horse works. I think the amount of energy he puts into his gallops is the reason why an official workout isn't important, in my mind."
The remaining members of "Team O'Neill" will likely arrive in New York the week of the Belmont, with owner J. Paul Reddam coming in either June 5 or 6 and jockey Mario Gutierrez scheduled to come in on June 5.
O'Neill said the plan was for the 25-year-old Gutierrez, who has never ridden in New York, to have from five-10 mounts at Belmont in order to become accustomed to the 1 1/2-mile track's unique dimensions.