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I’ll Have Another Scratches From Belmont

In a shocking and downright depressing turn of events, I’ll Have Another – the Triple Crown hopeful – has scratched from Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

Langston Hughes once asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?”

“Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore- And then run?”  he wrote.

Surely, Mr. Hughes had something far less trivial than Horse Racing in mind when he wrote those now iconic words, but when I’ll Have Another owner Paul Reddam took to the mic at his Friday press conference and said with sadness, “I’ll Have Another is retired,” racing fans everywhere must have, like Hughes, wondered, “what now?”  After coming from behind to win the Kentucky Derby, and running down the favorite in the Preakness, I’ll Have Another had been scratched from the Belmont Stakes.  There would be no Triple Crown in 2012.

Al Bello, Getty Images

Tendinitis has proved to be the culprit, discovered Thursday and confirmed Friday in the barns of Belmont.  Following an impressive Thursday workout, trainer Doug O’Neil noticed swelling on I’ll Have Another’s left front leg. When such swelling returned after an easy Friday morning gallop – meant to be the colt’s final preparation for Saturday’s historic race – the veterinarians were called in, the leg was scanned, and the injury was found.

Rather than attempting a comeback after what would have to be a 3-6 month layoff, Reddam, O’Neil, and the rest of the I’ll Have Another camp made the “Unanimous” decision to retire the colt who has already won so much.

I’ll Have Another remains in fine condition, with O’Neil mentioning to the associated press that the horse is “Sound and Happy.”  In fact, both owner and trainer made the point that their celebrated colt could have run Saturday.  ”Could he run and compete?  Yes.  Is it in his best interest? No.” O’Neil noted during the Friday presser.

It’s a crushing decision, but really, there was little decision to make.  Yes, an organization in trouble – NYRA – and a sport that’s watched itself fall farther and farther out of the public eye could have used the day that tomorrow was supposed to be.  But the sport will survive.  Would the colt have?  It’s a risk you just can’t take.

So for the 34th year, the Triple Crown will slip by without realization.  For the 34th year, racing fans will have to watch its coronation prove too illusive as the connections, the jockey, and in a lot of ways, fans everywhere, have seen their dream deferred.  It’s a crushing blow to the Belmont, and to the sport, but given the alternative, it, and we’ll, all get by. Perhaps O’Neil put it best when he said “[It's] far from tragic, but it is very disappointing.”

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