I’ll Have Another’s career is over.
The Canadian-owned racehorse has been retired due to a tendon injury, just one day before he was to make a historic bid for the Triple Crown.
Trainer Doug O’Neill confirmed at a news conference that the colt has the beginning of tendonitis in his left front leg.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was scratched from Saturday’s Belmont Stakes and O’Neill said he and owner J. Paul Reddam of Windsor, Ont., have decided to retire the colt.
“You could give him three to six months and start back with him,” said O’Neill. “But obviously he’s done so much that it was unanimous between the Reddams, my brother and I and everyone at the barn to retire him. It is a bummer but far from tragic.”
Reddam said it was the right decision.
“We were all a bit shocked but we have to do what’s best for the horse,” said Reddam. “And if he can’t compete at the top level, he’s done enough.”
I’ll Have Another was trying to become the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years. Mexican jockey Mario Gutierrez, who got his start in Vancouver and considers the city a second home, had hoped to ride the colt into the history books.
Reddam delivered the bad news to Gutierrez in the morning.
“He was sad for the horse really,” said Reddam. “He just had a tremendous bonding with I’ll Have Another . . . His concern was 100 per cent for the welfare of the horse and he expressed in the end no disappointed about him not getting to ride in the Belmont, just that he’s glad that horse is OK.”
O’Neill sent the horse out for a gallop in secrecy early Friday morning shortly after 5:30 a.m. He said the decision was made to avoid congestion around the detention barn housing the 12 horses entered for the Belmont.
Reddam said there was no indication of an injury prior to the colt’s morning workout.
I’ll Have Another jogged and then galloped around the 1 1/2-mile oval accompanied by stable pony Lava Man.
The 4-5 morning line favourite, I’ll Have Another was to enter the race as top choice for the first time in his eight-race career.
Reddam said with stud season over for the year, I’ll Have Another will return to his base at Hollywood Park in California and his future will be determined at a later date.
“Races are going to go on today, the big race is tomorrow,” he said. “I’m going to be there as a fan now.”
O’Neill called the injury a “freakish thing.”
“I think when you’ve got a human or equine athlete when you give 110 per cent every time you step on the court or on the track, you’re suspect to injury,” he said. “I’d been hoping and praying he would stay injury free and it didn’t happen.”
Last September, I’ll Have Another came out of a losing effort in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga with shin problems and took the rest of the year off.
He returned to racing in February, and won the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, putting the colt firmly on the Triple Crown trail.
O’Neill and Reddam immediately gave I’ll Have Another two months off leading up to the Santa Anita Derby, which he won by a nose on April 12.
He followed with victories in the Kentucky Derby on May 5 and the Preakness two weeks later to set up a highly anticipated bid to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Instead, he becomes the 12th horse since Affirmed to win the first two legs but not the Belmont.
It was the first time since Bold Venture in 1936 that the Derby and Preakness winner didn’t run in the Belmont. Burgoo King skipped the race in 1932.