BALTIMORE — Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another evidently loves traveling every bit as much as galloping on the track.
The chestnut colt arrived at Pimlico Race Course on Monday after being taken by charter plane from Kentucky to Baltimore. I'll Have Another and five of his stablemates received a police escort from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Pimlico, site of the Preakness on May 19.
"He loves to fly. His ears were pricked," assistant trainer Jack Sisterson said. "We were getting a police escort and there were people in the streets chanting, 'I'd love another.' He knows that's him. His ears were pricked and he's bobbing his head, going, 'Yeah, that's me.'"
I'll Have Another trainer Doug O'Neill had business in California, so Sisterson accompanied I'll Have Another from Louisville.
It's the earliest arrival by a Derby winner since Monarchos was shipped four days after his 2001 victory.
"We discussed a few plans and we just thought the more time here to get used to the surface, the better for him," Sisterson said. "Every trainer has a different training style. I suppose it's better to get the horse used to the surface and things like that. So, he's here now, and we're excited to have him here for the two weeks."
Instead of staying in Stall 40, the traditional Pimlico home of the Derby winner, I'll Have Another was guided by groom Benjamin Perez into Stall 17 in Barn D — next to the Preakness Stakes barn. He is positioned between two other horses trained by O'Neill.
For Team O'Neill, serenity was more important than tradition.
"I suppose it's like a human. You want to try and get your rest," Sisterson said. "If you've got 50 million people outside your bedroom, stopping and peeking every single day, you wouldn't get much sleep, would you? I suppose being out of the way, getting him to relax and being himself, is better for the horse."
I'll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby as a 15-1 shot and became the first horse ever to win the Derby from the 19th post.
Now he's got a shot at becoming horse racing's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Sisterson said the team began thinking about the Preakness soon after the conclusion of the Derby.
"I suppose when you cross the winning line in first position, you're, 'Wow, we're off to the Preakness now,'" Sisterson said. "Obviously you don't want to jump ahead of yourself. You want to see how he comes out of the race and things like that. He's doing fantastic. He's eating everything."
Those around I'll Have Another couldn't be happier.
"An absolute dream come true," Sisterson said. "Words can't describe the feeling. We're excited about the horse."