|Mario Gutierrez smiles atop I'll Have Another after winning the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP)
Elmont, NY - Leading three-year-old colt I'll Have Another took a jog around Belmont Park on Wednesday morning with 17 days to go until the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9.
With assistant trainer Jack Sisterson watching, exercise rider Hector Ramos guided the Kentucky Derby and Preakness champ once around the 1 1/2 mile oval.
"We took him to the track and jogged him once around, and he looked absolutely super," said Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill. "The way he looked was everything and more I'd want to see in him. Energy level was high, got over the ground well, ate up everything last night. Just looks super. He came out of the Derby in the exact same shape, and came out of the Preakness, if not the same, probably better.
"We'll probably do the same thing at the same time tomorrow, right after the break. He's cooling out great right there; there's no reason we shouldn't do the same thing tomorrow, [and gallop] possibly Friday. We'll take each day as it comes."
Sisterson said O'Neill will probably get to Belmont Park during the Memorial Day weekend.
One of the prime challengers to I'll Have Another in the Belmont Stakes is expected to be Union Rags who was the 5-1 second pick in the Run for the Roses.
Trained by Michael Matz, the colt is based at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland where he will have a workout in the next two days.
"He's doing very well," said Matz during a teleconference. "He might work tomorrow, maybe Friday. Mrs. [Phyllis] Wyeth is on her way back from Maine, and if she wants to see him work we'll do it tomorrow or Friday. We're hoping John Velazquez will work him in his last work [the following weekend]."
Velazquez picked up the mount on Union Rags Tuesday, replacing Julien Leparoux. Leparoux was aboard the colt for both the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, finishing third and seventh, respectively.
"It's been frustrating, I don't think in either of his last two races he got a chance to really run," said Matz of Union Rags. "I just hope he gets a clean trip. Whether he's good enough to beat [I'll Have Another], I don't know. I just want him to get a clean trip and show what he can do.
"I wouldn't be going in [the Belmont] if I didn't think he could beat I'll Have Another. He's a big horse, and once he gets into a nice rhythm -- that's why we went with John Velazquez. He knows New York."