WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Horse racing has not had a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed accomplished the feat in 1978. But I’ll Have Another has a chance to make history at the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes in Elmont on Saturday at 6 p.m.
The horse won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the first two legs of the Triple Crown, in dramatic fashion. The excitement about the Triple Crown possibility has many horse racing fans, die-hard and casual, abuzz with conversation.
Scott Tarter, owner of the Twin Lakes Farm in Bronxville, has been in the horse business for 25 years. The possibility of a Triple Crown winner is wonderful for the tri-state area, Tarter said .
“You can feel the vibe from it,” he said. “I can hear people talking about it at the horse shows.”
The Kentucky Derby is always an oft-discussed event because it is the first noteworthy race, Tarter said. The Preakness also has a buzz because the Derby winner can continue to pursue the Triple Crown.
But if different horses win the first two races, then the Belmont Stakes loses some of its luster. That has not been the case this year.
“When there is the potential for the Triple Crown, the interest in the Belmont around me goes up exponentially,” Tarter said.
Linda Rice, a trainer who works with the Hibiscus Stables in Somers, has been a trainer for 25 years and has won four training titles in New York since she came here in 1992. The consensus among those in the horse business is that I’ll Have Another can accomplish what no horse has done in more than 40 years, Rice said.
“I think he has a very good chance. I’m very excited about it,” Rice said. “He was impressive in the Derby and more impressive in the Preakness. He looks like a pretty fresh horse.”
Some horses that win the first two legs of the Triple Crown fall short at the Belmont Stakes because it is a 1.5-mile race, after the 1.25 miles of the Kentucky Derby and the 1.1875 miles of the Preakness Stakes. Fatigue can play a role in a horse’s Triple Crown chances, but Rice said I’ll Have Another should not have that problem.
“If anything, he’s coming into his own,” Rice said. “He hasn’t been over-raced as a 2- or 3-year-old.”
Rice said the everyman appeal of I’ll Have Another should not be overlooked. The horse’s initial owner, Victor Davila, bought him as a yearling in 2010 for $11,000. He then sold him to his current owner, J. Paul Reddam, for $35,000 in April 2011.
That many Americans could have purchased the horse and been a part of winning team gives fans something to cheer, Rice said. The Triple Crown possibility brings in even casual horse-racing fans.
“I think this is a terrific story, and I think it’s great for racing,” Rice said. “I think it’s what we’re all rooting for and hoping for. It adds some real excitement.”