Coming in shocking style this morning, Belmont Stakes favorite I’ll Have Another scratched from the Belmont Stakes tomorrow, officially ending his pursuit of the Triple Crown. In an interview, trainer Doug O’Neil cited tendonitis in his front left leg that was severe enough to keep him from running for history. O’Neil also shared that they decided as a group to retire I’ll Have Another from racing.
I’ll Have Another first made huge headlines by winning the Kentucky Derby as a long shot out of post position 19. Jockey Mario Gutierrez was still an unknown name in the sport, having never run in any races of this magnitude. That all changed after I’ll Have Another sprinted past Bodemeister at the Preakness to give us the hope for another Triple Crown winner. Since Affirmed in 1978, there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner. Many have come close claiming the first two, but the Belmont has proved to be the killer of the Triple Crown chances. It’s a pity that the Belmont doesn’t get another chance. That being said, risking further injury, or worse, is not something to push upon the horse. This must have been a very tough decision to make for O’Neil and the Reddam family, but it was undoubtedly the correct one.
With I’ll Have Another not running, I imagine that the Belmont television ratings will drop significantly, which is a real shame. There are still great races in the undercard, and a talent heavy field in the $1,000,000 11th race. Dullahan, Union Rags and Paynter, the new favorites in that order, will put on quite the show tomorrow. All three have had great workouts leading up to the Belmont, and should run great times. While some of the pressures to ruin a Triple Crown may have been alleviated from the jockeys and trainers, the horses are out there to win and don’t know the difference between what will be and what would have been.
If I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby as an underdog, why can’t one win the Belmont?