By Steve Mosco
I’ll Have Another’s bid for horse racing immortality stalled before the starting gate.
The horse in pursuit of the sport’s first Triple Crown in more than 30 years was scratched from the Belmont Stakes and will retire from racing immediately, owner J. Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill told a crowded news conference at the track Friday.
“History is going to have to wait for another day,” said a visibly upset Reddam.
The 3-year-old colt was scheduled to race in the Belmont Stakes Saturday, but developed swelling in its left-front tendon after an early morning gallop. After the swelling appeared and a veterinary scan was performed, the decision was made to pull the horse from Belmont.
“This is tough for all of us,” said O’Neill. “We’re disappointed and I feel sorry for the whole team.”
O’Neill said he noticed a potential problem on Thursday night when he felt a little heat in the horse’s left front leg, which often signifies a physical ailment. After a light gallop Friday morning – which the trainer said went well – an ultrasound was performed and the injury was confirmed.
The trainer insisted the horse’s stay in a detention barn was not the cause of the injury. New York racing officials had set up a special barn to safeguard against illegal drug applications by trainers in a strict monitoring program.
“Any human or equine athlete that gives 110 percent on the court or the track is going to be subject to injury,” said O’Neill, adding that he and the owner decided to “do what’s best for the horse” and pull him out of the race.
I’ll Have Another will be returned to Hollywood Park, its home track, where it will most likely be put out to stud.
A crowd of more than 100,000 people was expected to watch I’ll Have Another’s bid for a Triple Crown after winning the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby. Affirmed was the last to win all three races back in 1978, . Nineteen horses have won the first two legs and lost the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes.