I'll Have Another's date with destiny at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday took a back seat Tuesday to a potential strike by the racetrack's 150 maintenance and starting gate workers. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
It's been 34 years since horse racing's last Triple Crown. This Saturday, I'll Have Another will try to break that streak and win the Belmont Stakes, to add to his Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories.
"It takes three races to call yourself a Triple Crown," said jockey Mario Gutierrez. "We haven't. We only have won two. We have the first two. We're going for, we're gonna fight for the next one, that's one thing for sure."
At a media day gathering Tuesday, the buzz about the race was overshadowed by the possibility of a strike by the racetrack's 150 maintenance and starting gate workers.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 voted more than a week ago to authorize a strike at the Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga race tracks, though no strike date has been set. A mediator has been brought in to try to get a settlement.
While some speculated a strike could ruin the quest for the Triple Crown, the union and the racing association both said that won't happen.
"Right now we are planning for and expecting for a great day of racing on Saturday," said Dan Silver of the New York Racing Association.
"Is it going to be uncomfortable? Is it going to be a bit of a disruption if there's a strike? Absolutely," said Christopher Erikson of Local 3. "Will they get the race off? Absolutely."
Union officials say their workers have been without a contract since last February. Frustration over that, as well as changes to work schedules and health care benefits, led them to authorize a strike.
That a strike is a possibility came as a surprise to I'll Have Another's jockey.
"I haven't heard anything about that," Gutierrez said. "I just got here yesterday. What is that about?"
Since 1944, 19 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes but failed to complete the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes.
It's a challenge Gutierrez says he's up for and one he says he's not afraid of. The 25-year-old Mexican native has never raced at Belmont before but he says that won't stop him from winning.
Gutierrez visited the Empire State Building Tuesday after arriving in the city to get ready for the race. He said he has full faith in his horse's abilities.
"I don't see why my horse won't prove people wrong again," Gutierrez said. "I'm 100 percent confident in him. I'm not worried. He'll take me there."
The Belmont Stakes begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday.