I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown bid was derailed by a career-ending injury, but at 6:40 p.m. ET on Saturday, the 11th race at Belmont Park will go off as planned, and the 2012 Belmont Stakes, while lacking a superstar, could be a star-making stage for any of the 11 horses still in the field.
Look no further than the No. 1 horse, Street Life, the fourth betting choice on the morning line.
Street Life’s résumé is modest, with two wins in but five starts, and no victories in graded stakes — the sport's most prestigious races. But a win in the Belmont, a Grade 1 event, would stamp him as a colt to watch for the rest of 2012, and perhaps a future stallion.
A victory would also be another remarkable horse racing accomplishment for Texans owner Robert C. McNair, who co-owns Street Life.
Before he owned the Texans, McNair was heavily involved in campaigning and breeding Thoroughbreds. The Stonerside Stables of McNair and his wife, Janice, co-bred 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus and campaigned scores of stakes winners. They also co-owned 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold.
In 2008, the McNairs sold Stonerside Stables to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, significantly reducing their presence in the horse racing business.
“I just didn’t have the time to spend on that and on football, because they’re both full-time jobs,” McNair said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon.
McNair, who currently has seven horses, purchased a half-interest in Street Life from Hidden Book Farm after the colt’s stylish, come-from-behind maiden win at Aqueduct in February. The manner of victory, coupled with the horse’s stamina and breeding, were factors that McNair liked. Street Life’s sire, Street Sense, won the 2007 Kentucky Derby, the premier 1¼-mile race for three-year olds, and his dam sire is Grindstone, who captured the 1996 Kentucky Derby.
McNair also had familiarity with the horse’s trainer, Chad Brown, formerly an assistant to the late Bobby Frankel, who had previously trained for McNair.
“I think Chad’s going a good job with this horse,” McNair said, noting that Brown believes the 1½-mile distance of the Belmont is within Street Life’s scope.
In his last race, Street Life was third, beaten by 1½ lengths, in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 12. As McNair noted, a little more distance would have helped Street Life on that day.
Should Street Life win Saturday, it figures to be a much different winners circle experience for his connections than the scene 15 years ago at Belmont, when Touch Gold bested Silver Charm, who was vying for the Triple Crown. After the race, “people were booing us and cursing us, and they were not very happy about it,” McNair recalled.
McNair, who called I’ll Have Another’s withdrawal and retirement from the race unfortunate, expects Street Life to be “toward the very back of the pack” in the early stages of the race Saturday.
“Hopefully, he won’t be too far behind and have too much to make up,” he said.