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Jun 08, 2012

Gutierrez - The key for I'll Have Another's success

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It is a well-known fact that jockeys play an important role in how well a horse runs. That statement can be multiplied tenfold when it comes to the Belmont Stakes.

Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, there have been 11 horses who have conquered the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness only to come up short in the Belmont.

Some of those colts had the misfortune of not being bred to handle the 1 1/2- mile distance (Charismatic and War Emblem) while others were just not good enough on that particular day to claim one of racing's highest honors (Big Brown and Alysheba). Unfortunately, key riding errors also have played a part in Belmont Stakes defeats, especially when it came to Smarty Jones and Real Quiet.

The focus of this year's race is on I'll Have Another as the chestnut colt tries to join the likes of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Citation and the rest of the 11 horses who have won all three legs of the Triple Crown. However, it would be unwise to discount the jockey on top of I'll Have Another.

Mario Gutierrez has come out of obscurity to sit one race away from being mentioned in the same breath as Steve Cauthen, Jean Cruguet and Ron Turcotte as the only living Triple Crown-winning jockeys. He has given I'll Have Another one flawless ride after another, first winning the Robert B. Lewis, then the Santa Anita Derby, followed by the Kentucky Derby, and finally the Preakness. One more top-notch ride will send both the horse and jockey into racing immortality.

Can he accomplish what Stewart Elliott on top of Smarty Jones and Kent Desormeaux aboard Real Quiet could not? Those two jockeys moved way too soon on their respective mounts only to come up short at the wire. Gutierrez must show patience and not engage the likes of Unstoppable U, My Adonis, and Paynter until the field hits the final turn. If he forces the issue and goes to the top approaching that turn, he could find his horse without much gas left in the tank through the stretch.

Another thing that Gutierrez must overcome is his inexperience riding at Belmont Park. That factor has played a part in many Belmont Stakes, including a recent edition three years ago when Calvin Borel rode the heavily favored Mine That Bird.

The horse came into the Belmont Stakes with a win in the Derby at 50-1 followed by a second-place finish to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. Borel had ridden the winner in both races and was back on Mine That Bird in the Belmont. Nevertheless, Borel did not have much experience riding at Belmont Park and it cost him a personal Triple Crown aboard two different horses.

Borel moved Mine That Bird from eighth place around the far turn to the lead approaching the top of the stretch through an unbelievably fast 22 4/5-second quarter. Keep in mind that was after having run a mile and with two furlongs still to go. Not only did Borel and Mine That Bird get passed by Summer Bird for the win, but they also were outrun to the wire for second by Dunkirk.

Mario Gutierrez has never ridden at Belmont Park. His first few mounts come on Friday, the day before the Belmont Stakes. A couple of the races are sprints, which have little resemblance to the third leg of the Triple Crown.

However, trainer Doug O'Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam have done the smart thing and entered a horse for Gutierrez to ride in the 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn Handicap.

Boxeur des Rues, who finished sixth in the Santa Anita Handicap in his most recent dirt race, will be one of the longer-priced horses in the Brooklyn, but it doesn't really matter where the horse finishes on Friday. All that is important to I'll Have Another's connections is for Gutierrez to get a feel for the track at the same distance as the Belmont Stakes.

What makes the Brooklyn even more important for Gutierrez is that Boxer des Rues breaks from post 10, unless a horse to his inside scratches prior to the race. That is virtually the same position that I'll Have Another comes from as the Derby-Preakness champ drew post 11.

Reddam and O'Neill have thought of almost everything to help I'll Have Another's cause and it is that attention to detail, along with the horse's innate ability and pedigree, that should propel the colt to win the 144th Belmont Stakes.

How The Race Will Be Run

Not many Belmont Stakes winners have taken the race gate to wire. In fact, only Da' Tara (2008) has pulled off that feat since Swale did the trick back in 1984. It's likely Unstoppable U or My Adonis will be in front early on, but that duo will give up the lead to either Paynter or I'll Have Another at some point before the final turn.

At the head of the stretch, look for I'll Have Another to poke his head in front of Paynter's, with Union Rags and Dullahan coming on to challenge.

Atigun and Street Life should be further back but ready to pick up the pieces if any of the horses in front of them tire through the final quarter-mile.

Inside the eighth-pole, I'll Have Another puts away Paynter, but he then has to hold off the oncoming charge of Dullahan. Both Paynter and Union Rags start to tire and are passed by Atigun.

With 50 yards to go, I'll Have Another has enough left to hold off Dullahan to win the Belmont Stakes by a length, becoming the first horse since Affirmed to win the Triple Crown.

Atigun rallies for third.

The Wager

My mythical bankrolls of $100 each for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness have netted a $1,323 profit. Let's try to continue the winning ways in the Belmont.

First, bet a $60 exacta of I'll Have Another over Dullahan. Next throw in a $16 exacta of I'll Have Another over Atigun. With the final $24, bet a $6 tri part- wheel of I'll Have Another on top, with Dullahan and Atigun second, and Dullahan, Atigun and Street Life third.

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