By Reid Cherner and Gary Mihoces, USA TODAY
ELMONT, N.Y. -- The world came to see a coronation. They got a retirement instead.
I'll Have Another has been retired after an injury to his left front tendon forced him from Saturday's Belmont Stakes, ending his bid to become the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years.
As trainer Paul O'Neill and and owner J. Paul Reddam trotted the colt out at Barn 2 at Belmont to show that the horse was not crippled, hundreds of press and even more photographers and cameraman crushed close to get a glimpse of the horse trying to replace Affirmed as the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont.
At the same time fans at Belmont Park were just getting the news and the mood was split between gloom and the knowledge that would have to find another horse to bet. Dullahan, who went from 6-1 to 9-5 and Union Rags, from 6-1 to 3-1 seem to now be the chosen horse.
Larry Bramlege, the veteranarian for the Triple Crown
O'Neill said the chestnut colt had been a "little quiet" the last few days. The injury was first noticed Thursday when the team noticed a loss of definition in his left front leg after he galloped. After applying a special poultice, I'll Have Another was back to the track early Friday morning.
"We did just an easy gallop with him around the track and cooling out you could tell the swelling was back," O'Neill said after showing off the colt to the media at the press conference.
He said the injury was diagnosed the start of tendonitis in his left front tendon and that prompted the unanimous decision to retire I'll Have another.
"It's far from tragic, but it is disappointing," O'Neill said.
"It's been an incredible ride and incredible run," he said. "I know we are going to be back here again. It's just a freakish thing.
After losing the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga last September, I'll Have Another took the rest of the year off with shin problems. Then after winning the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, the had another two months off leading up to the Santa Anita Derby, which he won April 12, before then taking the Kentucky Derby and Preakness to set up the Triple Crown bid.
I'll Have Another was the 12th horse since Affirmed who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but did not win the Belmont Stakes.
The colt, bought by J. Paul Reddam for $35,000 was considered to be worth about $6 million after the Preakness win. Only plunging breeding prices kept him from being more valuable.
Earlier this week, win or lose the Triple Crown, O'Neill said he was hopful I'll Have Another would continue to race after the Belmont Stakes instead of going straight into the big money world of breeding.
"One of the great things about I'll Have Another's owner, Mr. Paul Reddam, he's a huge fan of the game, and I know if I'll Have Another stays injury free Paul won't rush him into the breeding shed and breed him. I think one of the problems our industry has is that we have a hard time falling in love with horses because oftentimes once they get really good the temptation of the financial end of it is so strong that most of us have to take the money and retire him. But knowing Paul if the horse is right he'd much rather see the horse compete and I think be great for the game as I'll Have Another is gaining more and more fans. It would be nice to see him around for another year or two if the racing gods are looking over him."
They did not, and it's not the first time.
In 1999, Charismatic broke his leg coming into the turn for home. He was able to finish the race but finished third. In 2008 Big Brown did not finish the race after jockey Kent Desormeaux stopped him from running.I'll Have Another beat Bodemeister in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes when he ran him down twice in the chase for home. Bodemeister will not run in the Belmont. Dullahan and Union Rags are now considered the favorites for the Belmont. Dullahan was third in the Kentucky Derby and Union Rags, seventh. Neither ran in the Preakness Stakes.
I'll Have Another's Triple Crown bid had electrified the country. Hotel rooms were scarce here this weekend, and the track was expected to be packed.