An injury to the left front leg has ended the bid by I’ll Have Another - winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, as well as the Derby - to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 34 years and has also ended his racing career.
“I’m here today to officially tell you I’ll Have Another has been retired,” owner Paul Reddam said at a televised news conference at Belmont Park in New York Friday.
As trainer Doug O’Neill paraded the winner of the horse around in front of a throng of reporters, Reddam added, “As you can see, the horse is in good shape. But I’m afraid history will have to wait for another day.”
O’Neill followed Reddam to the microphone to explain why the decision was made to scratch the horse from Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, where I’ll Have Another could have been the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
“This is extremely hard for all of but,” O’Neill began. “But is a far from tragic. No one died.”
He then thanked all those who worked for him in preparing I’ll Have Another’s bid at history.
O’Neill made it clear that the detention barn where I’ll Have Another had been staying the past couple of days had nothing to do the with leg injury.
He said that a minor skin irritation and some swelling was noticed last night but then the horse galloped well in a light workout this morning at 5:30 East Coast time, three hours earlier than normal.
“We thought the racing gods had smiled on us,” O’Neill said.
But a few hours later the swelling was back, and at that time, O’Neill said, the decision was made to scratch the horse.
I’ll Have Another was purchase by O’Neill’s brother, Dennis, for $35,000 at a Florida sale last year. Now that he is retired to stud, his value could be as much as $12 million.
So it is understandable that his connections didn’t want to risk a fatal injury in the Belmont, but more importantly another racing fatality would have been a huge blow to horse racing.
And that would have been a real tragedy.