ELMONT, N.Y. - A leg injury has taken I'll Have Another out of the Belmont Stakes and out of the running for the Triple Crown.
The issue is with a swollen left-front tendon. Trainer Doug O'Neill said something was first noticed in the leg on Thursday, but hoped I'll Have Another had "just hit himself."
I'll Have Another looked fine during a morning workout on Friday, according to O'Neill, but in the cooling down period "you could tell that swelling was back and at that point I didn't feel very good."
O'Neill talked to owner Paul Reddam and the two summoned a doctor, who determined I'll Have Another showed signs of tendinitis beginning in his left-front leg.
The doctor indicated the horse would need 3-6 months of rest. After conferring, O'Neill and Reddam opted to retire I'll Have Another.
"It's a bummer," O'Neill said, "but it's far from tragic."
The inflammation to the tendon is a "one-bad-step injury," according to equine veterinarian Larry Bramlage, and doesn't have anything to do with overuse or I'll Have Another's schedule of races.
"In the whole scale of tendon injuries, it's minor. In the scale of the Triple Crown, it's huge," Bramlage said.
There were indications Friday morning that something was amiss. O'Neill took I'll Have Another to the track for his morning jog hours earlier than he had been going for the past three weeks. O'Neill then left the Belmont track without speaking to the media, and Reddam was also not available. That was highly unusual for what had been a media-friendly group.
"I was watching him this morning," said trainer Ken McPeek, who has two horses in Saturday's race – Unstoppable U and Atigun. "I wanted to see what his energy level was like, his aura, and the screen [on his stall] was closed. I thought, 'What's that about?' There was people in there. It was a little unusual."
Rumors began to circulate late Friday morning that something was wrong with the horse, and O'Neill confirmed the shocking news on The Dan Patrick Show.
"It's too bad," McPeek said. "It's a hard thing. I feel really bad for the connections. I feel terrible for them.
Saturday's running of the Belmont Stakes was highly anticipated, as I'll Have Another was on the cusp of becoming the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown. Never a favorite in any of his previous races, the three-year-old I'll Have Another was a 4/5 favorite to win the final leg of the horse racing's most elusive prize.
"Now," McPeek said of Saturday's race, "it's wide open."
I'll Have Another is only the third Triple Crown aspirant to miss the Belmont Stakes due to injury. The others are Bold Venture in 1936 and Burgoo King in 1932.
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