BOZICH: Fans gear up for Belmont amidst I'll Have Another's - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH: Fans gear up for Belmont amidst I'll Have Another's retirement

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ELMONT, N.Y. – You can buy pictures of I'll Have Another's rousing wins in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness ($40 unframed, $100 framed) at the souvenir shop on the second floor of the Belmont Park grandstand Saturday.

"People started buying them as soon as we opened at 8:30 and they've been the most popular items all day," said Roz Coglianese, who was working the shop. "Even more popular than Secretariat, which is usually our top seller. People still appreciate the horse, even though he's not running today."

No, he isn't. 

On the day that I'll Have Another was supposed to close the 34-year gap between Triple Crown winners, the colt will be led from the paddock to the winners' circle by trainer Doug O'Neill at 5:53 p.m. He'll enjoy a final ovation before O'Neill removes his saddle.

That will be final confirmation that the injury the colt suffered to his left front leg forced him to miss the final leg of the Triple Crown and transition into retirement.

"Everything happens for a reason," jockey Mario Gutierrez said. "We'll be cheering for all the horses and for the best horse to win."

So will the rest of the Belmont crowd. Prior to the colt's retirement, New York Racing Association officials were expecting a crowd of more than 100,000. Now, with the star attraction not competing and gray skies blanketing the area, the attendance figures are expected to take a hit of 25,000 or more.

NYRA canceled plans to distribute 25,000 commemorative I'll Have Another cups. But TVG, a television channel that focuses on horse racing, proceeded with its promotion – passing out 25,000 I'll Have Another posters on the third floor of the Belmont grandstand. Eighteen women dressed as jockeys moved through the crowd, distributing the posters.

"It was sad news Friday, but we still wanted to go ahead and celebrate his career," said Stephen Kennelly, marketing director for TVG. "People are very interested in having a memento of the occasion."

In the bottom left hand corner of the poster are three boxes to be checked – one for the Kentucky Derby, another for the Preakness and a third for the Belmont.

Red check marks have already been filled into the first two spots. The spot for the Belmont remains open – and always will be.

Copyright 2012 WDRB News.  All Rights Reserved.

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