BALTIMORE — Four days before the Preakness, I’ll Have Another trainer Doug O’Neill was feeling very skittish about his pending appearance on the grand stage.
His nervousness had nothing to do with saddling up the Ken-tucky Derby winner Sat-urday with the Triple Crown hanging in the balance. O’Neill didn’t care that it was too wet to send I’ll Have Another out on the track, and he certainly wasn’t uneasy about the Preakness coming down to another duel between his horse and Derby pace-setter Bodemeister.
No, the usually laid-back O’Neill was fretting over his assignment Tuesday night at Camden Yards: Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the game between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in my hotel room throwing shampoo bottles at pillows,” he said Tuesday morning. “My biggest thing is not bouncing it. The more people say don’t bounce it, the more likely you will bounce it. I’m just trying to stay focused on throwing it straight and strong and not embarrassing the I’ll Have Another team.”
O’Neill broke a trend by shipping the his horse to Pimlico Race Course just two days after the Derby, and he arrived in town two days after that. Since then, he’s been preparing I’ll Have Another for the Preakness and doing all things Baltimore.
O’Neill watched the Baltimore Ravens rookies practice last weekend and had lunch with coach John Harbaugh. On Monday night, he tried crabs for the first time.
“It’s a lot of work with a mallet. I felt like a carpenter,” O’Neill said. “It was good. We experienced the common food of Baltimore. I think next time I’ll look for the crab cakes. That’s the lazy man’s way of eating crab. Pulling the legs and cracking this and that, it does seem like too much work.”
On the topic of work, O’Neill decided I’ll Have Another didn’t have to do any Tuesday on a wet, dreary morning at Pimlico.
“With I’ll Have Another being as fit as he is and the fact he’s doing so good, we figured the weather forecast is supposed to be nice starting tomorrow, so why take him out there?” O’Neill said. “Like the rest of us, we all like a day off. We gave the whole barn a day off. He looks fantastic.
“You would expect good energy, which he has. We needed a lip chain to keep him on the ground.”