Former Triple Crown winners rooting for I'll Have Another

ELMONT, N.Y. — Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won four Kentucky Derbies, five Preakness Stakes and four Belmont Stakes, but he has never won the Triple Crown. So pardon the 76-year-old trainer for not jumping on the I’ll Have Another bandwagon like so many in the horse racing world have on the eve of the Belmont Stakes.

While winning owners, trainers and jockeys appear ready to welcome I’ll Have Another into the prestigious fraternity of 11 horses who have won the American Triple Crown, Lukas is not. He’ll saddle 20-1 long shot Optimizer in the 144th Belmont Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park.

Lukas, who was struck in a the head by a runaway horse Tuesday at Belmont and needed stitches to close a 2½-inch gash on the left side of his head, was up to his usual gamesmanship this week. He tossed some well-placed horse manure into the punch bowl of a party that Team O’Neill and Team Reddam are enjoying on their ride to Triple Crown infamy.

“Bless his heart, he’s got great confidence,” Lukas said of the Mexican-born Gutierrez, 25. “He’s probably going to have a great career, but he’s going to jump into the deep end of the pool here.”

Unlike Lukas, those who have survived the final Triple Crown test here on Long Island seem ready to see Gutierrez and Team Reddam-O’Neill end the 34-year Triple Crown drought that dates back to Affirmed winning in 1978.

“I think this horse has a lot of tenacity,” Wolfson said. “He really loves to run and looks like he wants to win. He would be a good successor if it comes about. There were times I didn’t feel as though we were ready to relinquish it, but maybe the time has come now. I certainly think racing needs a horse that will bring a lot of excitement and this little guy can do that. There’s something about this chestnut that reminds me a little tiny bit of Affirmed, the way he just wants to win. and maybe it’s just time. maybe racing could use a star and he could possibly be that star.”

Jockey Steve Cauthen was just 18 years old when he rode Affirmed to the Triple Crown and became the youngest jockey to ever do it. Gutierrez is 25, but in his first year racing in the U.S. he’s already developing a reputation for having ice in his veins, like Cauthen.

Former Triple Crown winners rooting for I'll Have Another


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