"I am going to tell everyone to try and keep the tension down. Enjoy it. If you want to be in the spotlight, knock yourself out. If you started singing on David Letterman, you probably carried it too far. But this is supposed to be fun."
O'Neill already has embraced the hoopla, and can't wait to take Manhattan.
"Like we did in Louisville and Baltimore, when we come to New York we're going to see the town, enjoy it, soak it in," he said. "And the reason we're enjoying it so much is the horse has been thriving so much. If he continues to do good, we'll have a good time."
There could be bumpy times, too. O'Neill has been under scrutiny over his many violations for giving his horses improper drugs. He has been accused in California of "milkshaking," the illegal practice of giving a horse a blend of bicarbonate of soda, sugar and electrolytes. The mixture is designed to reduce fatigue and enhance performance. He was fined $1,000 and suspended 15 days in one incident. He is contesting another and faces penalties ranging from a minimum 90-day suspension and a $5,000 fine to a maximum 180-day suspension and fine of $15,000.
"I can't talk about all that stuff," O'Neill said. "I know we play by the rules, and I know we love our horses and we take great care of them."
He chooses to accentuate the positive.
"One thing we have here is an open-door policy and a backstage pass for everybody," he said. "And it's been a great opportunity to share with everybody who loves horse racing to see what goes into trying to take care of a horse. You can say whatever you want about me, but you have to be so amazed at how amazing I'll Have Another and all of the people around him are in taking care of him."
After winning the Santa Anita Derby by a nose, the colt purchased by Reddam for $35,000 won the Derby by 1½ lengths with a stretch run that caught Bodemeister in the final 100 yards. I'll Have Another then produced an even more dramatic finish in Saturday's Preakness, reeling in Bodemeister in the final strides to win by a neck.
In less than three weeks, it's the biggest test of all, the grueling, 1½-mile Belmont, the longest of the Triple Crown races known as the "Test of the Champion."
The wait is on.
"These three weeks will be the longest of their lives," Cauthen said. "Every day they wake up, they have to make sure nothing goes wrong, that when he comes back from a gallop something doesn't happen to him, like he steps on a stone or something silly. No matter what you do, there's always going to be pressure, probably even more so now after 34 years without a Triple Crown.'"
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