Rival trainers hope to spoil Triple Crown

If everything goes according to plan for trainer Dale Romans, thousands of racing fans will be cursing him this weekend for spoiling one of the biggest parties in more than three decades.

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Like everyone in the American horse racing industry, Romans knows that the sport would get a much-needed boost if I'll Have Another wins the Belmont Stakes to complete the elusive Triple Crown.

But Romans, who prepares I'll Have Another's biggest danger Dullahan, has no doubts where his loyalties lie.

"None at all," he replied when asked if he was torn between wanting to see his own horse win at the expense of I'll Have Another at Elmont, New York on Saturday.

"I'd like to have 120,000 people booing me on the way out.

"This is a sport we owe it to the past Triple Crown winners to make him earn it."

Romans' view was shared by Dullahan's owner Jerry Crawford as well as Ahmed Zayat, who owns Bodemeister, the runner-up to I'll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

Bodemeister is skipping the final leg but Zayat has entered Paynter, a dangerous and fresh challenger to the Paul Reddam owned I'll Have Another.

"Ahmed and I talked with Paul earlier today and told him we're going to do everything we can to keep him from being a Triple Crown winner," Crawford said at Wednesday's post position draw.

"But after what he has already done, and if he gets it done Saturday, he'll not only be a worthy Triple Crown winner, he will have exceeded all possible expectations."

Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown and just three since 1948. The last was Affirmed, 34 years ago, which came hot on the heels of Secretariat (1973) and Seattle Slew (1977), briefly raising the notion that the Triple Crown had become too easy to win.

"I don't think anyone thinks that anymore," said I'll Have Another's trainer Doug O'Neill.

"Now people are wondering if it will ever happen again. I think a lot of people want to see it happen this year. I know I do."

I'll Have Another is the 12th horse since Affirmed to go into the Belmont with a chance of the Triple Crown. All have failed, though plenty have come close, and the list includes some of the greatest horses ever to race in the United States.

Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and Smarty Jones (2004) all finished second in the Belmont, while Spectacular Bid (1979), Pleasant Colony (1981), Charismatic (1999) and Funny Cide (2003) came third.

The last horse to attempt the treble was Big Brown, who trotted home last in 2008 in the final and most gruelling event of the series, teasingly known as the Test of Champions.

"Every race, the expectations get a little higher when you succeed, so that's a good place to be," O'Neill said.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Belmont four times but never the Triple Crown, is another hoping to spoil the party, with his 20-1 shot Optimizer, the only horse apart from I'll Have Another to run in all three legs this year.

"I'm realistic. There's better horses in the race (than Optimizer) but the times that I have won it, there were better horses in the race then, too," he said.

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