The breathtaking journey of I'll Have Another over the past five weeks ended with a punch to the gut Friday when trainer Doug O'Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam announced the colt was out of the Belmont Stakes and would be retired following the discovery of the beginning of tendinitis in his left front leg.
Having captured the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in spectacular fashion, I'll Have Another was attempting to become the 12th horse in history and the first since Affirmed in 1978 to sweep the American Triple Crown.
The troubles began when O'Neill first detected "some loss of definition" in I'll Have Another's left front leg on Thursday afternoon.
O'Neill said the issue appeared to be moot when the colt's legs were cold Friday morning and he still moved well when sent out for a jog and gallop around the Belmont oval. The swelling returned when I'll Have Another was cooling out, and a subsequent ultrasound revealed the damage.
"It's subtle, but it's one of those things, if you don't do the right thing, it's gonna turn in to be a problem, so we don't wanna do that," said O'Neill, who — as he has during the entire Triple Crown run — remained upbeat despite the circumstances. "It's a roller coaster. What a ride. He's given us so much pleasure. It is a bummer, far from tragic, but very disappointing."
I have no small amount of respect for O'Neill to scratch his horse. Lesser people would have run him anyway, even if it meant a debilitating or fatal injury was possible. And let's not feel too bad for I'll Have Another, folks. He may not have made history, but he gets to spend the next decade plus or so in a stud pasture.
Here's hoping your kids kick some ass.