Belmont Stakes 2012: Long Track Plays to I'll Have Another's Strengths

Ryan PhillipsContributor IIIMay 20, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 19:  I'll Have Another ridden by Mario Gutierrez comes ahead at the finish to beat Bodemeister ridden by Mike Smith to win the 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 19, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

I'll Have Another has conquered both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and now approaches the third leg in the Triple Crown at Belmont, a track ideally suited for his strengths. 

Jockey Mario Gutierrez and I'll Have Another have somehow pulled out late wins at both of the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Bodemeister, the betting favorite, led almost the entire way during each race, but I'll Have Another was able to run him down on the home stretch of each.

That late kick not only proved I'll Have Another has tremendous heart, but also an incredible ability to run fast late in a race. That late life will come in handy on the incredibly long track at Belmont, which checks in at 12 furlongs. 

At the Preakness, most experts believed I'll Have Another wouldn't have enough room to open up his legs on Pimlico's 9.5 furlong track. Instead, Gutierrez and trainer Doug O'Neill figured out how to unleash that kick earlier than they previously had. The result was a close victory over Bodemeister. 

With the Belmont looming in three weeks, I'll Have Another's team will have the task of re-orienting their horse to a longer track, but I don't think it will be a difficult task. 

I'll Have Another has won four-straight races and has not lost since Gutierrez took over as jockey. In each of his last three races, the colt has come from behind to edge his competitors at the wire. The horse just seems to have a special ability to know what he needs to do to win a race. 

At the Belmont, I'll Have Another will be on a long track that fits his strengths perfectly. For that reason, I believe he will be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.