Being the leader in the clubhouse is a mixed blessing. You've left your marker out on the course, and now everybody gets to take a shot at beating you.
It all worked out fine for I'll Have Another , who built up an insurmountable advantage among 3-year-old males early in 2012, running roughshod over the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II), Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, and Preakness Stakes (all gr. I) before retiring to the sidelines with a leg injury the day before the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). However, he was joined on the bench by virtually every other leading sophomore, including Union Rags , Creative Cause , Bodemeister , Hansen, and Paynter . Dullahan's TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I) victory over older horses marked the lone achievement by a leading 3-year-old in the second half of 2012.
I'll Have Another accomplished more than enough to snare the Eclipse Award for best 3-year-old male. Although he did finish second in the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at 2, I'll Have Another, bred in Kentucky by Harvey Clarke, was just a maiden winner when he prevailed in the Lewis. Generally regarded as still a cut below the best, I'll Have Another turned a few heads when he ran down Creative Cause by a nose in the Santa Anita Derby, but was still held at 15-1 when he broke from the 19-hole in the Derby. The son of Flower Alley-Arch's Gal Edith, by Arch, moving under wet-behind-the-ears jockey Mario Gutierrez, made believers out of doubters when he ran down Bodemeister and repeated the feat two weeks later at Pimlico.
It was deflating for the sport when owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O'Neill announced the colt's retirement on the eve of a potential run at the Holy Grail of the Triple Crown.
"It's bittersweet," noted Dennis O'Neill the trainer's brother and the bloodstock agent who selected the champion out of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s April 2-year-old auction for $35,000. "He was gonna get nothing but better with age. I sure think he was just starting to get good. The sky was the limit."
I'll Have Another earned his trophy; it was just a shame he had to receive it in the clubhouse.
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