Graham Motion can't help but hear snippets of news coming from Elmont, N.Y., where I'll Have Another is preparing for a shot at the first Triple Crown in 34 years.
"It's great for the sport," the Fair Hill-based trainer said. "But for us, it's tough, too. The length that he won by at Preakness, we lost by that much last year."
Motion can take some solace in knowing the colt that gave him such a gallant run, Animal Kingdom, is finally headed back toward the race track. Out since early March with a stress fracture in his left hind leg, he spent about a month in his stall and is now able to be jogged for seven or eight minutes a day. He could work to a gallop by June.
"I hated to see him laid up, especially this time of year with everything going on," Motion said. "It's nice to see him moving around again."
Motion won't enter a horse in the June 9 Belmont. He and Team Valor International owner Barry Irwin had never planned to point Went the Day Well to the mile-and-a-half race. Went the Day Well finished a tired 10th at Preakness after a promising fourth-placing finish at the Kentucky Derby.
"I think that, really, the year so far has taken much more out of him than I thought," Motion said. "It caught up with him. I don't think we're going to be in a hurry."
The Grade 1 Travers Stakes, at Saratoga in late August, is a possibility for Went the Day Well.
Rosie Napravnik could have a chance to follow one of her riding idols, Julie Krone, at the Belmont.
Krone is the only woman ever to win a Triple Crown race, doing so in New York aboard Colonial Affair in 1993.
Napravnik, the former Hereford High student who began her career at Maryland's tracks, is scheduled to ride FiveSixteen.The winner of one race in six starts — none of them graded stakes — Five Sixteen will be the longest of long shots.
To the surprise of no one, Julien Leparoux will not ride Union Rags. He failed to put the colt, trained by Fair Hill's Michael Matz, in position to run at the Kentucky Derby and finished a hard-charging seventh. John Velazquez, who rode Animal Kingdom last year, will take over the mount. Leparoux has been booked to ride Antigun, according to the Daily Racing Form.
Javier Castellano, the leading jockey in the country this year (with 136 wins and more than $8 million in earnings), will replace Kent Desormeaux on another top contender, Dullahan.
Desormeaux failed a Breathalyzer test the Friday before Preakness, pushing Sagamore Farm owner Kevin Plank and his team to switch to Ramon Dominguez aboard Tiger Walk. But Dullahan trainer Dale Romans had long been one of the controversial Desormeaux's most ardent supporters.
Another product of Maryland tracks — Desormeaux began his career by winning Eclipse awards for outstanding apprentice jockey and jockey two years apart while racing primarily in the state — Desormeaux told The New York Daily News that he will seek help for an alcohol problem.
Mike Smith, who twice lost to I'll Have Another aboard Bodemeister, will stick with trainer Bob Baffert and ride his entrant, Paynter.
I'll Have Another doing light work
I'll Have Another continued his light training Thursday, jogging 1 ½ miles in company with usual pony Lava Man over the Belmont main track.
"It looks like he gets over the track fantastic," said Jack Sisterson, trainer Doug O'Neill's assistant. "He looked super, his energy level is high and he's doing everything we want to see him doing."
I'll Have Another could gallop Friday.
O'Neill, still in California, turned 44 on Thursday. He wrote on his blog that he planned to spend the day looking for restaurants serving free birthday meals (Derby and Preakness checks must not go as far as they once did), announcing on the track intercom that a male model had been born 44 years ago and wearing a goofy birthday hat.
He could not be reached for comment, or restaurant advice.
With less than two weeks remaining until the post-position draw for the Belmont, the field O'Neill's colt will face remains in flux. Belmont officials list 13 horses under consideration. Of those, Union Rags and Dullahan will be seen as the most serious competition. Daily Racing Form handicapper Mike Watchmaker currently has I'll Have Another at 4-5, with Dullahan a 5-1 choice and Union Rags at 6-1.
twitter.com/chriskormanCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times