By RICHARD ROSENBLATT, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Trainer Doug O'Neill called an audible and sent Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another out for a final gallop in secrecy the day before the Belmont Stakes.
O'Neill said the decision was made to bring his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to the track shortly after 5:30 a.m. Friday to avoid congestion around the detention barn housing the 12 horses entered for the Belmont. The colt jogged and then galloped around the 1½-mile oval accompanied by stable pony Lava Man.
"It's been very hectic the last few days, so we thought we would take him out when it's quieter," O'Neill said in a statement released by the New York Racing Association. "The detention barn setup with all 12 of the horses going out at the same time has been a little bit hectic."
After a loose horse nearly collided with I'll Have Another on the track last week, NYRA established a 15-minute window, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.— just for Belmont horses to be on the track.
There may be room on the track, but apparently not at the detention barn. It opened Wednesday after racing officials ordered one set up to ensure the safety and security of the horses. Most trainers have complained that the barn is an inconvenience, and could negatively affect the horses.
When horses return from their morning exercise, they are walked around the barn area to cool down and then bathed before being led back to their stalls.
"The simple thing of just trying to find a place to bathe your horse has been kind of congested," said O'Neill. "We thought we would come out early, and it would be quieter. Hopefully he will be back resting in his stall when 8:30 rolls around and a lot of the hectic activity starts. We want to get him in the quietest frame of mind leading up to the biggest race of his life."
O'Neill declared his colt "fit and ready to go."
"We are just trying to let him bring as much energy to the table tomorrow as possible," he added. "We thought giving him an easy day the day before would be a good move. He stayed with coach Lava Man just to keep everything off-speed. I was very pleased with it. Perfect. We are ready to roll."
I'll Have Another is trying to become the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years.
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