Losing the Belmont Stakes favorite to injury the day before the race casts an unequivocal gloom over Belmont Park. Lately, horse racing in New York has been taking a lot of punches. Following a state crackdown on the industry, threats of a union strike, and pending government overhaul of the association that operates the state’s tracks, the last few weeks have been less than cheerful, despite the prospect of a Triple Crown winner.
To see I’ll Have Another pulled from the race and be retired is very disappointing to the public as well as those in the industry. This horse was one of the few things that had made all those woes tolerable. But to act as if the Belmont is dead and pointless without I’ll Have Another breaking from the gate is ridiculous, even if the major media outlets indicate otherwise.
Many memorable renewals of the Test of Champions have not had a Triple Crown on the line. The race is still grueling, the feat of winning is still impressive.
A.P. Indy, Damascus, Nashua, Native Dancer, oh yeah, and a horse that went by the name of Man o’ War, all won and seem to have done pretty well for themselves despite not being Triple Crown hopefuls heading into their respective Belmonts.
Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens won the Belmont Stakes five consecutive times in the 1980s, a truly remarkable accomplishment of a legend in the sport.
The 1988 winner, Risen Star, stirred up memories of his famed sire when he rolled to a 14 3/4 length win and track announcer Dave Johnson called out, “[jockey Eddie] Delahoussaye asks the son of Secretariat for speed and gets it!”
Take a deep breath, everyone. There is a racing classic to look forward to. Do not wallow in your 34-years-and-no-Triple-Crown misery. To do so only discredits the talent and dedication of those still in the race, and overlooks their ability to put up a brilliant performance.
So then, eleven it is. Eleven will keep their elite brotherhood of Triple Crown champions closed to yet another three-year-old pledge. Eleven will go to the post for the 144th Belmont Stakes. Life goes on.