O'Neill won't make it to Yankees game
Doug O'Neill, trainer of Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another, reluctantly passed on the offer to throw out the first pitch Friday night at Yankee Stadium before the Mets vs. Yankees game.
The timing was just too tight.
O'Neill is running Boxeur des Rues in the Brooklyn Handicap, which is set to go at 5:44 p.m ET Friday.
The Brooklyn is an important test on several levels. It is one of the few dirt races run at the Belmont Stakes distance of 1-1/2 miles. More important, it will help jockey Mario Gutierrez get used to a track he is unfamiliar with.
An unknown rider before his Kentucky Derby victory, Gutierrez has never ridden at Belmont. This will be his trial run over the track at the Belmont distance. Boxeur des Rues and I'll Have Another are owned by J. Paul Reddam.
''They wanted us there at 6:15,'' O'Neill said of the ballpark deadline. ''The Reddams were kind enough to offer a helicopter, but at the end of the day, it's not going to work. It would be an unbelievable experience. But I think, more importantly, having Boxer in the Brooklyn and having him run good, and giving Mario experience, is the most important thing.''
''Any help I can get before the race, like racing that long, is going to be really good for me,'' he said. ''I can go and see how it feels to be on this kind of track. It's going to help a lot.''
The Belmont Stakes is Saturday. I'll Have Another will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner — a sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes — since Affirmed in 1978.
O'Neill did get to throw out a first pitch at Camden Yards in Baltimore in the days leading to the Preakness. Gutierrez handled similar duties at a Los Angeles Dodgers game.