[UPDATED: 2 p.m.]
It’s a Triple Crown bust before the gates even open. I’ll Have Another, the thoroughbred gunning for a win at Saturday’s Belmont Stakes in hopes of clinching the first Triple Crown win since 1978, will not run in the race. The horse had “a little problem with his left front leg,” trainer Dan O’Neill announced Friday morning. The injury is thought to be the onset of tendinitis that will likely end the career of I’ll Have Another.
O’Neill appeared on the Dan Patrick Show Friday to break the news. “I’ll Have Another is officially out of the Belmont,” O’Neill said tersely, dashing the hopes of the more than 100,000 fans expected to pack the Elmont, N.Y., track this weekend. It’s an announcement also sure to dent the wallets of millions of bettors worldwide, as I’ll Have Another was the 4-5 favorite to win the Belmont Stakes.
I’ll Have Another was consistently underrated throughout its racing career. The horse was sold last year for a mere $35,000. After winning two small-stakes races in California, it took to the track in Louisville as a 15-1 long shot to win the Kentucky Derby.
At a Friday-afternoon press conference, I’ll Have Another was officially cast into retirement. It was a fate O’Neill foreshadowed during the Friday-morning interview, hinting that the horse had raced its last race. ”If I had to wager … I would say yes,” O’Neill said. “He looks great. He’s sound. He went great this morning,” Dennis O’Neill, Doug’s brother, said at the press conference. “You just can’t take a chance.”
Affirmed clinched the most recent horse-racing Triple Crown in 1978. In the 34 years since, 11 horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes but fell short at Belmont. Looks like there’s now “Another.”