ELMONT, N.Y. - Canadian-owned I'll Have Another will go for the Triple Crown from post No. 11 in the 12-horse Belmont Stakes field Saturday.
J. Paul Reddam's horse has been installed as the 4-5 morning-line favourite, the first time in his eight-race career that he has held top spot in the odds.
Team Reddam was happy with Wednesday's draw at Belmont Park.
"Being in the 11 hole, we're able to kind of see how the pace sets up," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "If they're crawling, we'll be hopefully leading the crawl. And if they're flying, we'll be sitting in behind the horse flying."
I'll Have Another started in the No. 19 spot in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby and No. 9 in the 11-horse Preakness.
I'll Have Another is bidding to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Since then, 11 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness only to stumble over the 1.5 miles of Belmont dirt.
Even rivals are talking up the Canadian-owned entry's chances of becoming the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.
"Several good horses in here but obviously I'll Have Another's the horse to beat, he's for real," said Chad Brown, trainer of Street Life. "A horse is going to have to run the race of his life to beat him."
New York Racing Association analyst Andy Serling says the lightly raced I'll Have Another has a shot to do more than just join the exclusive Triple Crown club.
"He has a chance to really be a horse that they'll say in history he was a very deserving Triple Crown winner," he said.
As for the draw, Serling said it was essentially benign for all concerned.
"I'll Have Another drew extremely well, getting towards the outside," he said. "I think his (team's) biggest worry was he would have been inside and become a bit of a target.
"Getting the outside post had to be a great relief to them. I don't think anybody was particularly compromised."
The horses in post-position order with morning-line odds are Street Life (12-1), Unstoppable U (30-1), Union Rags (6-1), Atigun (30-1), Dullahan (5-1), Ravelo's Boy (50-1), Five Sixteen (50-1), Guyana Star Dweej (50-1), Paynter (8-1), Optimizer (20-1), I'll Have Another (4-5), My Adonis (20-1).
I'll Have Another was moved to the so-called Belmont detention barn Wednesday, joining other horses in the field in a secure setting where feed and other variables can be monitored to ensure an even playing field.
O'Neill said his horse was feeling good.
"He's doing great," he said. "He's continued to gallop good, his energy's been good, his appetite's been strong. He's handled this whole journey as good as you can possibly ask for.
"He hasn't lost a bit of his flesh at all. His coat continues to shine and look great. We couldn't ask for him to be coming into this any better."
I'll Have Another pegged back favoured Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, prompting owner Ahmed Zayat to sit Bodemeister out this time and instead send Paynter to the starting line.
"Our colt ran his heart out in the Derby, he ran a spectacular, unbelievable Derby," said Zayat. "We have an incredible horse in I'll Have Another. He's a true champ, he's a really, really nice horse ... We were just beaten by a better horse fair and square."
Bought by Reddam of Windsor, Ont., for US$35,000 as a two-year-old, I'll Have Another has won five of seven career starts and earned $2,693,660. He will be ridden again Saturday by Mexican jockey Mario Gutierrez, who calls Vancouver a second home after racing there.
I'll Have Another drew praise from other rivals Wednesday.
"I don't think I'll Have Another, as much attention as he's gotten, has really gotten his full due yet," said Jerry Crawford, owner of second-choice Dullahan.
"And the reason is that Ahmed Zayat's horse Bodemeister has just been spectacular in both races and yet I'll Have Another has found a way to beat him in both races.
"Ahmed and I talked with Paul (Reddam) earlier today and said to him that we're going to do everything we can to keep him from being a Triple Crown winner. But after what he's already done, and if he gets it down here Saturday, he'll not only be a worthy Triple Crown winner, he will have exceeded all possible expectations."
I'll Have Another went off in the Derby 15-1 while runner-up Bodemeister went off as the 4-1 favourite. I'll Have Another was second choice at 3-1 in the Preakness behind 8-5 favourite Bodemeister, who finished second again.
Serling said there are just two ways that I'll Have Another loses Saturday.
"One is he just doesn't show up. Now I see no indication that should be the case but obviously it's horse racing and that could happen," said Serling.
"If he shows up and runs the race he ran in the Preakness, I don't think he can possibly lose this race. I don't care how much they (the rest of the field) improve.
"But a horse like Dullahan or I suppose even Union Rags, though I'm not a big fan, or even Paynter could step forward and run a big race, But let me tell you, they better."