I'll Have Another, the winner of the 2012 Kentucky Derby and 2012 Preakness Stakes, will have a chance at horse racing immortality this Saturday at the 2012 Belmont Stakes, as a win for the colt would make I'll Have Another just the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown. I'll Have Another would become the first horse since Affirmed 34 years ago to capture all three legs of the Triple Crown. 11 horses have won the Derby and Preakness since Affirmed, with all failing to take the Belmont, the most recently Big Brown in 2008.
I'll Have Another's 25-year-old jockey, Mario Gutierrez, will once again be a key component in any victory. Unfortunately, Gutierrez has never raced at Belmont, so he will be arriving early this week to get a feel for the track. Via the Chicago Tribune:
But the 25-year-old never has raced at Belmont, and one veteran rider said inexperience will be his undoing. Kent Desormeaux, winner of six Triple Crown races and twice the jockey aboard a horse that won the first two legs but lost the third, does not believe Gutierrez will be able to acclimate to the 1 1/2-mile race over a track of the same distance (Churchill Downs and Pimlico are mile tracks).
Gutierrez will arrive early this week in New York. O'Neill and I'll Have Another owner J. Paul Reddam hope the jockey will ride in as many as 10 races before the Belmont. Reddam has gone so far as to say he would invest in a horse and enter it in the Grade II Brooklyn Handicap - also 1 1/2 miles - to help Gutierrez. Veteran jockey Richard Migliore has offered to take Gutierrez on a tour of the track to share his insights.
Though inexperienced, Gutierrez was excellent aboard I'll Have Another in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, perfectly timing the run at Bodemeister in the Derby and outdueling veteran Mike Smith and Bodemeister again in the Preakness.
For more on the Preakness Stakes and the race for the Triple Crown, stay with this StoryStream and check out SB Nation's horse racing blog And Down The Stretch They Come. There, you'll also find a A Beginner's Guide To Following Horse Racing and a glossary of horse racing terms.