Desormeaux: I'll Have Another in deep
No matter what happens at the Belmont Stakes on June 9, I’ll Have Another is going to be No. 12.
The 3-year-old colt, who will be racing for the Triple Crown that day, could be the 12th horse in history to win the vaunted title with a victory at Belmont Park that day.
But according to Kent Desormeaux, who missed chances to win a Triple Crown with losses in the Belmont in 1998 (Real Quiet) and Big Brown (2008), I’ll Have Another is much more likely to become the 12th Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to come up short at Belmont in the 34 years since Affirmed won horse racing’s elusive trifecta.
For 25-year-old jockey Mario Gutierrez, who has never competed at the legendary mile-and-a-half long track, the Belmont will prove a challenge unlike any he has faced in the sport. Desormeaux doesn’t forecast a win for the Belmont novice.
“A first-time jockey will be lost. I don’t care how much you try to explain it,” Desormeaux told The Daily on Monday. “And a first-time horse will be lost, equally. If you think you can bring a horse here and introduce him to Belmont Park a few days before the Belmont Stakes, you have wronged yourself. When you’re on a mile track as a jockey, it’s time to start prepping forward when you hit the last turn. The horses learn it and think it’s time to go because that’s what they know and that’s what they’re trained.
“As a jockey, when you get to Belmont Park, you have to mediate it and that’s very difficult. The horse is ready to fly and you can pull, but as a jockey when I ride a horse that’s running off, the only reason I keep a hold of him is public appearance. I might as well let him go because he’s gone. To pull on him and make him wait is only for the viewing pleasure. He’s uncomfortable and he’s running off, and the outcome is going to be the same.”
In 1998, Desormeaux pursued that strategy, as Real Quiet led by four lengths with an eighth of a mile remaining. But it was jockey Gary Stevens and Victory Gallop who gained momentum in the homestretch to win by a nose. The 2008 Belmont was an even bigger disappointment for Desormeaux, as Big Brown seemingly ran out of gas as he approached the final turn, easing into the finish line in last place.
Desormeaux, who finally conquered Belmont in 2009 aboard the victorious Summer Bird, won’t be among Gutierrez’s fellow riders at this year’s race. The 42-year-old Hall of Fame jockey, who lost his mount on Tiger Walk at the Preakness after refusing a mandatory Breathalyzer test the day before, was informed Monday that he would be removed from riding Dullahan at the Stakes.
Dullahan, who placed third at the Kentucky Derby with Desormeaux at the reins, will now be commandeered by Javier Castellano, the highest-earning jockey in the US this year. The Breathalyzer issue is the latest problem for Desormeaux, who failed a prerace Breathalyzer in 2010 and was arrested last year at Saratoga Race Course and charged with a misdemeanor after allegedly trying to hit a security guard with his car.
“I’m trying to find a way to make sure that I can live happily ever after with my wife and kids,” said Desormeaux, refusing to address his personal situation further. “I’m trying to get healthy.”
While Desormeaux tries to sort out his own issues, he offered Gutierrez an insight into the spotlight he’s likely to receive between now and the “Test of the Champion.”
“The first time I went through it, I almost didn’t know how to act,” Desormeaux said. “I went and rang the bell downtown on Wall Street. You get drove all over the world, and everyone wants a piece of you. I realized it’s hard to keep the blinkers on and stay focused when all that stuff is happening to you.
“You start getting calls from AIG and all these companies that want to talk to you and be your friend if you win the Triple Crown. I would tell Gutierrez not to even take the call. They’re all full of s--- unless you win. After you win, you can pick your own.”