I'll Have Another's trainer Doug O'Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam announced in a press conference in Belmont Park today that the horse will not only be scratched from the Belmont Stakes, but will retire from horse racing completely.
"You can see he's in good shape," Reddam said in the stakes barn as O'Neill walked the placid colt in front of reporters and cameras. "But I'm afraid history is going to have to wait for another day."
"This is extremely tough for all of us, and though it's far from tragic -- no one has died or anything -- it is extremely disappointing," said O'Neill, who was recently in the spotlight after receiving a 45-day suspension for allegedly feeding the thoroughbred illegal performance-enhancing substances.
There was swelling on the horse's left front tendon on Thursday and a special poultice was applied to improve conditions. The swelling had returned as of this morning, however, when O'Neill's brother Dennis watched the him gallop around the track at an unusually early 5:45 a.m., and verified that the tendon still appeared "kind of tender."
"He has been a little quiet the last few days of galloping," Doug O'Neill told reporters today. "Yesterday we noticed some loss of definition in the leg. I prayed it was just a bit of skin irritation. This morning he looked great, but cooling down, you could tell that the swelling was back."
The decision to retire the thouroughbred was made unanimously by Reddam and both O'Neill brothers shortly after the morning work-out.
"We tried to [keep the situation] quiet, and I really thought he was going to run off tomorrow and really show something, so we're all a bit shocked," Reddam said. "But we have to do what's best for the horse."
The decision to retire I'll Have Another was made in order to maintain his overall health, the safety of jockey Mario Gutierrez, and the other Belmont competitors. He does not currently run the risk of becoming lame.
Reddam's immediate plan for the colt is to return him to Hollywood Park, his home track, where he will be in "friendly surroundings." It remains to be seen whether or not he will serve as a stud in the coming years.
Hopes were high that I'll Have Another would be the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years, and the anticipation surrounding tomorrow's Belmont Stakes had provided a much-needed boost to the horse racing industry. The ungainly colt, who was purchased for a modest $35,000 and hailed from the relatively less glamorous California racing circuit, had a compelling story, and his thrilling finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were decided at the wire. Fans were also drawn to his perceived rivalry Bob Baffert's Bodemeister, who finished second in both races. Now the future of the racing community is once again uncertain as other forms of legalized gambling surpass it in popularity, and as viewers doubt the merits of a sport that pushes horses to -- and sometimes beyond -- their physical limits. It will be a long year of waiting to see if another four-legged Messiah will rise through the ranks to restore the floundering industry to relevance.
Photo courtesy of the Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office.