I’ll Have Another was dramatically withdrawn from the Belmont Stakes last night after picking up an injury and is set to be retired.
The colt was in line today to become the first colt since Affirmed in 1978 to win America’s Triple Crown after victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
Trainer Doug O’Neill broke the news on an American radio station after his charge had returned from a routine pre-race gallop with tendonitis in his left front leg.
"I'll Have Another is officially out of the Belmont. He galloped great then in the afternoon had a little bit of filling in his left front leg," the trainer said.
"I took him out and did a little something with him but after training that swelling came back and the vet scanned the left front leg and he has the start of some tendonitis going on. He's not a 100 per cent and we're not taking any chances. Pulling him out isn't tragic but it's a huge disappointment."
Today’s contest would have been I’ll Have Another’s third race in five weeks and O’Neill underlined that the horse’s schedule was partly to blame.
“When you give 110 per cent every time you step on the court, or on the track, you’re suspect to injury,” he added. "I’d been hoping and praying he would stay injury free, but it didn’t happen.”
I'll Have Another finishes with five wins from seven starts and $2,629,600 in earnings. The colt will now return to Hollywoood Park as Paul Reddam, the owner, will begin to piece together a stud programme for the son of Flower Alley.
“We have to do what’s best for the horse. If he can’t compete at the top level, he’s done enough,” the owner, who told jockey Mario Gutierrez in person, said. “I think he [Gutierrez] was sort of stunned. He really didn’t say much at first. He was sad for the horse, really,” he added.
The mantle of big-race favourite falls now on to Dullahan, who finished under two lengths behind I’ll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby.
Owner Jerry Crawford came out on Thursday to suggest that his colt should have won at Churchill Downs and missed the Preakness Stakes to be fresh for Belmont against the wishes of his trainer Dale Romans, who was crestfallen at the news.
"It's devastating," the trainer said. "I thought this was going to be one of the greatest races in history, and I wanted the opportunity to be part of it. But this is bigger than that. This is terrible news."