BALTIMORE -- For the first time since 2008, a Triple Crown will be on the line at Belmont Park, the best news that the embattled New York Racing Association could have received. Assuming I'll Have Another comes out of Saturday's Preakness victory in good shape, his presence June 9 on Long Island could produce a crowd of more than 100,000.
The recent firings of CEO and president Charles Hayward and vice president Patrick Kehoe in the wake of a takeout scandal cast a dark cloud over NYRA. The possibility of the first Triple Crown since 1978 will create temporary sunshine.
NYRA yesterday released a list of non-Preakness runners who are possibilities for the Belmont. The most accomplished are Dullahan (third, Kentucky Derby); Union Rags (seventh, Derby); Alpha (12th, Derby), and Mark Valeski (first, Peter Pan). The others are Atigun, Five Sixteen, Guyana Star Dweej, Rousing Sermon and Street Life.
Another potential Belmont horse is Paynter, who dominated a non-winners-of-2, 1 1/16-mile allowance Saturday at Pimlico. Bob Baffert said this week he was thinking about the Triple Crown finale for Paynter, whom the trainer originally rated more highly than Bodemeister. Paynter, a son of 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, won his debut Feb. 18, then finished fourth behind I'll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby and second in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs.
Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister most likely will not go in the Belmont, although Baffert said, "Never say never,'' this week. Trainers of the other Preakness also-rans will not make their Belmont decisions until Sunday at the earliest.