By Ron Mitchell and Lenny Shulman
Owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill announced June 8 that I'll Have Another has been retired due to a tendon injury, his quest for the Triple Crown ended a day before his scheduled start in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
During a hastily called press conference at Barn 2 at Belmont Park, Reddam said heat was discovered in I’ll Have Another’s left foreleg the afternoon of June 7. Although the colt jogged fine on the morning of June 8, a subsequent scan after his trip to the track showed inflammation, the owner said.
In a ceremonial tribute, jockey Mario Gutierrez will be aboard I’ll Have Another as he leads the post parade for the Belmont (post time 6:40 p.m. EDT, NBC, 4:30-7 p.m.).
“I’ll Have Another’s ability to lead the post parade for tomorrow’s Belmont Stakes is an illustration of the character of his injury," said Dr. Larry Bramlage, on-ca veterinarian for the Belmont Stakes. "It is absolutely of no concern for sub-maximal exercise, but would be a concern at a mile-and-a-half at full speed. Therefore, I have no concern for his appearance on the racetrack at the head of the Belmont field.”
O’Neill said the official diagnosis was tendonitis in the left front, superficial tendon.
“I’m afraid that history is going to have to wait for another day,” Reddam said as O’Neill walked the colt in front of a large assembly of media members. “You can see he is in good shape.”
“This is tough for all of us,” O’Neill said. “It is far from tragic; no one died or anything like that, but it’s extremely disappointing and I feel so sorry for the whole team. But it has just been an incredible ride, an incredible run.”
O’Neill said the colt could be returned to competition after three to six months while the injury healed, but that the connections decided to go ahead and retire him. Because the 2012 breeding season has concluded, Reddam said a decision will be made later on where he retires to stud. He said I’ll Have Another will be shipped to his Betfair Hollywood Park base either June 10 or 11.
O'Neill said I'll Have Another had "done so much that it was unanimos between the Reddams and my brother (and advisor) and I and everyone at the barn to retire him."
Reddam and O’Neill reiterated that congestion at the special stakes barn set up for Belmont Stakes horses, and not any suspicions of an injury was the reason I’ll Have Another went to the track shortly after it opened for training at 5:30 a.m.
I'll Have Another had routinely waited until 8:30 a.m. to go the track for his daily gallops at the same time as most other Belmont starters.
“After yesterday afternoon, the intent was to take him out real early when it was quiet,” O’Neill said. “One of the negatives to this detention barn is that at 8:30 everyone is heading out and you’ve got 10 to 12 horses all trying to go to the track, all trying to be on the wash rack. It gets congested. I wanted a real quiet time with him.
“He looked great this morning. He trained great. But when I saw the swelling come up after the training, then, you know…”
“It should just be clear that yesterday afternoon, before any of this came up, the decision was made that he was going to have an easy morning and come out early and stress free and just jog around the track for Saturday,” Reddam said. “So it wasn’t like he had an injury and Doug took him out for a test drive this morning. That was not the case. He had a little heat; it was gone. He was good this morning, probably because he was treated before the race on Thursday. It was just after that, Doug called and we just discussed, okay, we have this problem, should we look at it?
“So the horse is not lame. He could have run tomorrow. You wouldn’t have known a difference had he not looked at it. So Doug, through extreme caution about the horse, had the vet come over and scan him.”
Guiterrez said he was thankful for the happiness and success he got from steering I’ll Have Another from the grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes through the Preakness Stakes (gr. I)
"What he did for me is amazing," Gutierrez said. "He brought happiness to my life and I'm thankful to be able to share this unbelieveable adventure with family and friends. He’ll be my hero forever. I was just glad I was his jockey. He hasn’t done anything but bring me all this happiness and all this success. This comes once in a lifetime. I just feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be part of I’ll Have Another."
I’ll Have Another retires with a record of five wins and a second in seven career starts, with earnings of $2,693,600. His victories included the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, Preakness Stakes, and Santa Anita Derby, all grade I.
With the defection of I’ll Have Another, who was the Belmont favorite at 4-5 morning line odds, Derby third-place finisher Dullahan was made the 9-5 favorite. The revised odds for other Belmont horses are Street Life, 8-1; Unstoppable U, 20-1; Union Rags , 3-1; Atigun, 15-1; Ravelo's Boy, 30-1; Five Sixteen, 30-1; Guyana Star Dweej, 30-1; Paynter , 7-2; Optimizer , 15-1; My Adonis, 15-1.