They’ll take up residence no later than noon Wednesday in a special barn where every move and visitor will be closely monitored, a change in routine that has angered some trainers. New York racing officials mandated the last-minute move as part of new rules to ensure that the race is run fairly.
The so-called detention barn has bare bulbs in every stall, and visitors have to be logged in and out. Instead of being spread out around Belmont Park, all runners will be in stalls next to each other.
Track workers were busy fixing Barn 2 on Monday for the incoming residents. Trainer Doug O’Neill, who is facing a 45-day suspension in July, plans to move I’ll Have Another into the barn today. Since arriving from Baltimore two weeks ago, the colt has been staying in a borrowed stall.
O’Neill accepts the new rules, although he’s not thrilled about having to uproot I’ll Have Another so soon before he tries to become the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown.
“The obvious negative thing is a lot of horses do get distracted when they change stalls,” he said Monday.
Michael Matz, who trains Union Rags, and Dale Romans, who oversees Dullahan, don’t like being forced to sequester the horses on short notice.
Romans was blunt, wondering who would be on the hook if his horse fails a test.
“Them, for guarding my horse, or now am I still responsible for everything?” he said. “I’d still be responsible, but still don’t have any control.”
While New York officials didn’t single him out, O’Neill knows the move hasn’t made him popular.
“I think it’s a good thing,” he said about the detention barn. “I like the thought of showing the general public that all the horses are in the same locker room, they’re all being looked after real thoroughly, just the transparency that our game probably lacks is key.”