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April 20, 2014

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I’ll Have Another trainer collects $20,000 from Kentucky Derby future in Primm

Doug O’Neill reflects on colt’s near-miss at the Triple Crown

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Steve Marcus

Doug O’Neill, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, prepares to cash a 200-to-1 future bet on the horse at Primm Valley Casino in Primm, Nev. Monday, June 25, 2012. O’Neill won $20,000 for his $100 bet, which he made in February, that the horse would win the Kentucky Derby.

Doug O'Neill Cashes in at Primm

Doug O'Neill, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another, displays his winnings after cashing a 200-to-1 future bet on the horse at Primm Valley Casino in Primm, Nev. Monday, June 25, 2012. O'Neill won $20,000 for his $100 bet, which he made in February, that the horse would win the Kentucky Derby. At left is Mark Verge, CEO of Santa Anita Park racetrack. Launch slideshow »

I'll Have Another

Doug O'Neill, foreground, trainer of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another, brings the horse out for a news conference at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., on Friday, June 8, 2012. I'll Have Another's bid for a Triple Crown ended with the shocking news that the colt was out of the Belmont Stakes due to a swollen left front tendon. Launch slideshow »

As if I’ll Have Another trainer Doug O’Neill hadn’t profited enough from his colt winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes last month, he added an additional five-figure payday Monday morning in Southern Nevada.

O’Neill cashed a $20,000 future ticket on I’ll Have Another to win the Kentucky Derby at the Lucky’s race and sports book in Primm Valley Resort.

O’Neill carried the ticket with him throughout I’ll Have Another’s memorable run, which saw him one victory away from winning the Triple Crown. O’Neill pulled the colt out of the Belmont Stakes with a ruptured tendon a day before the race.

“If I ever let myself get bummed, I was like ‘ you know, I’ve still got that 20 g’s to hang on to,’ ” O’Neill said. “That was definitely an added bonus.”

One of the men who worked alongside O’Neill in his barn made the wager for him in February days before I’ll Have Another won the Bob Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Several members of Team O’Neill placed bets over a two-day period, resulting in a major loss for Lucky’s. O’Neill’s $100 wager at 200-to-1, a price he couldn’t resist, was the single largest ticket printed.

“I’ve done the future book bets since I can remember, before I should have been doing them,” O’Neill said. “I’ve never been able to cash. I’m sure I’ve lost even more than this thing will pay us.”

The influx of action and victory in the Bob Lewis shifted the odds drastically in the horse’s favor. Before the Derby, I’ll Have Another was down to 75-to-1 to win the Triple Crown.

O’Neill and most of his team passed on that wager, but not for lack of confidence.

“You never dream about winning the Triple Crown as a trainer,” said Steve Rothblum, one of O’Neill’s associates. “You dream about winning the Derby. When we won the Preakness, that’s when it became real. He was the right horse at the right time. It was just a shame we came up a couple days short.”

Rothblum added that it felt like “a kick in the groin” when I’ll Have Another came down with his injury. Although he said it only took a couple hours to get over it and treasure what the horse did manage to accomplish, a trace of pain remained evident in his voice when discussing I’ll Have Another’s final workout.

O’Neill and Rothblum agreed that I’ll Have Another had the best training session of his career two days before the Belmont.

“This horse was set to run a huge race,” Rothblum said. “He wouldn’t have only won, he would have won impressively. That’s the only thing that we keep thinking about. He was so good and to have that little hiccup two days before, horses are like fruit. They can be ripe one minute and then spoiled the next.”

O’Neill and Rothblum aren’t done collecting winnings from the Kentucky Derby. Both hung on to 12-to-1 win tickets they made right before the race.

But those were parimutuel wagers placed at Churchill Downs. In other words, Lucky’s was the only book to feel a sting from the victory.

Because O’Neill took the chunk out of Lucky’s, however, the company has found a silver lining.

“The publicity has been great the whole time,” said Dan Shapiro, who oversees Lucky’s horse book. “We got national coverage on it. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby-winning trainer in Primm. I doubt that’s happened any time recently.”

O’Neill posed for pictures with his cash, signed a couple autographs and joked around with his friends at the book. Seven weeks after his first Kentucky Derby victory, O’Neill has stayed in celebration mode.

When someone tells O’Neill sorry for what happened to I’ll Have Another, he tells them to save it. The horse won the Bob Lewis, the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness within a span of three months.

He’ll take that any year.

“The lows weren’t that low,” O’Neill said. “The highs were incredible. As we kept saying, it was far from tragic. It was a disappointing, but we had an incredible run.”

Four stacks of $100 bills have a way of bringing out positivity.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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