Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another was withdrawn from Saturday’s 144th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes and retired, a little more than 24 hours before his attempt to become the first horse in 34 years to win the Triple Crown.
In a ceremonial tribute, jockey Mario Gutierrez will be aboard I’ll Have Another as he leads the post parade for the Belmont Stakes (post time 6:40 p.m., NBC 4:30-7 p.m.).
Trainer Doug O’Neill said I’ll Have Another had developed a swelling in his left front tendon that was the beginning of tendonitis.
“This is extremely tough for all of us. It’s far from tragic but it’s extremely disappointing,” said O’Neill, who described the injury as a “freakish thing” during a 1 p.m. news conference at Belmont Park. “He has been a little quiet the last few days of galloping but his legs have been great. Yesterday he galloped great, but in the afternoon we noticed some loss of definition in his left front leg … we prayed he kind of hit himself and that it was a little bit of skin irritation. We did him up in a special poultice, and this morning he looked great. We did just a little easy gallop with him this morning. I thought he looked great on the track.
“Cooling out, you could tell the swelling was back,” he said. “I talked with Mr. [J. Paul] Reddam and immediately we got Dr. [Jim] Hunt over here. He scanned him and he said it was the start of tendonitis in his [superficial] left front tendon and … you give him three to six months and then start back with him. But obviously, he’s done so much, that it was unanimous to retire him. It’s a bummer, but far from tragic.”
O’Neill said I’ll Have Another would return to Hollywood Park either Sunday or Monday.
Only two other Derby and Preakness winners were unable to run in the third and final leg of racing’s Triple Crown – Burgoo King in 1932 and Bold Venture in 1936.
Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown, beginning with Sir Barton in 1919 and continuing with Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), and Citation (1948).
In 1973, Secretariat brought the 25-year-long Triple Crown drought to an end. He was joined later that decade by Seattle Slew, the first undefeated Triple Crown winner, and Affirmed, who outdueled Alydar in 1978 to become the most recent Triple Crown winner.
I’ll Have Another had been installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite over 11 other 3-year-olds in the Belmont. Purchased by Reddam as a 2-year-old for $35,000 on the advice of O’Neill’s brother, Dennis, I’ll Have Another was undefeated in 2012, winning the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby prior to his dramatic victories over favored Bodemeister in the Derby and Preakness.
Dullahan, the third-place finisher in the Derby who had been the second choice for the Belmont, was installed as the new 9-5 favorite.