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'I'll Have Another' Scratched From Belmont, Won't Race For Triple Crown

I'll Have Another training earlier this week at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
Al Bello
Getty Images
I'll Have Another training earlier this week at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

I'll Have Another, which was set to run for racing glory in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, will not be racing for the Triple Crown.

"History is going to have to wait for another day," owner J. Paul Reddam said during a press conference at Belmont Park, today. Reddam said I'll Have Another, who had good odds of becoming the first winner of a Triple Crown since 1978, was suffering from tendinitis in his left, front tendon and that the colt's racing career was over.

On The Dan Patrick radio show this morning, trainer Doug O'Neill broke the news that the horse "is officially out of the Belmont." The show's website adds that:

"O'Neill said [I'll Have Another] looks fine. He said he will walk the horse in front of the media at his 1 p.m. ET press conference to show everyone that the horse is doing well. But he has the beginning of the injury and they can't run him.

"Dan asked O'Neill if I'll Have Another has raced his last horse. 'If I had to wager ... I would say yes,' O'Neill said."

We'll have more shortly.

Update at 2:07 p.m. ET. 'Like An Entire Sport Cancelled':

Countering Deford, Tim Layden makes the case over at Sports Illustrated that I'll Have Another's scratch is a "big blow to racing."

Just 11 other horses had been in this position, Layden writes, and during those times the sport was glittering at center stage.

When the news of I'll Have Another broke, writes Layden, "it was as if an entire sport had been canceled."

"Late Friday morning the 144th running of the Belmont loomed as the most significant sporting event on one of the busiest weekends of the year," Layden writes. "A Game 7 in the NBA Playoffs, Stanley Cup Finals, French Open women's final, Manny Pacquiao fight ... none of it was bigger than the history that might be made at Belmont. Instead, the event is meaningless, except to the very small community of breeders and bettors who will still pay attention."

Update at 1:57 p.m. ET. Better Not To Have A Winner?

On Wednesday, Frank Deford posed what he himself admitted was a perverse question: "... Isn't it better to have the potential winner barely get beat so that the losing streak continues, building interest?"

Deford continues:

"It's now been 34 years since we had a winner, and someday soon, someone will start to call it the curse of the Triple Crown. Terrific! Curses are even more attention-getting than streaks. I mean, suppose I'll Have Another wins Saturday. Next year, if another horse heads into the Belmont, going for the crown, everybody will just say ho-hum, they did that last year, what's the big deal?"

Update at 1:19 p.m. ET. Unanimous Decision To Retire:

"History is going to have to wait for another day," owner J. Paul Reddam said during a press conference at Belmont Park, today. I'll Have Another had tendinitis in his left, front tendon that has ended his racing career.

"He was good this morning," Reddam added. "The horse is not lame, he could have run tomorrow, [but] it was a unanimous decision to retire him."

The Belmont Stakes reports that trainer O'Neil noticed some filling in the leg on Thursday afternoon. It appeared the horse had "whacked himself."

"Friday morning, O'Neill brought the horse to the track at 5:30 a.m. — three hours earlier than usual — and did his usual jog and gallop, but the filling returned," Belmont reports.

Update at 12:05 p.m. ET. Questions About The Trainer?

I'll Have Another's scratching will renew reports about O'Neill and things that have gotten him in trouble with racing stewards.

On Talk of the Nation Wednesday, Washington Post horse racing columnist Andrew Beyer addressed that issue and said O'Neill "is not a cheater." From the show:

"BEYER: You know, the newspapers have been filled with stories about this cheating trainer, you know, who has now won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. There's nobody in this business who is more critical of drug abuse than I am, but I will say this: I have examined Doug O'Neill's record thoroughly. This guy is not a cheater. And the wrap that he has been getting, you know, coming into the Belmont, that, you know, we have to have a special security barn to keep O'Neill from doping his horse, is just crazy.

"NEAL CONAN: He's accused of milkshaking and, indeed, will have to begin serving a 45-day suspension shortly after the Belmont Stakes.

"BEYER: The test that his horse failed is - or the test that got him that suspension measures the amount of carbon dioxide in the horse's body. It occurs there naturally. So the - and what the test does is sort of measure whether you're over what appears to be, like, a normal amount. And if, like, the normal is 35, then this horse got a 37.

"This was not a case of their finding, you know, some, you know, illicit substance like cobra venom in the, you know, in the horse's blood. It, as I say, was a case, you know, he measured - you know, his carbon dioxide measured 37 instead of 35.

"And I looked at the record of this horse. If anybody thinks that there was any illicit intent, you know, in the horse that he got the suspension for, then they're crazy. It was like, you know, a hopeless horse who had, you know, who hadn't run a good race for a long time - I mean, that ran a, you know, or finished eight in the race in question.

"So this was - it was, you know, it was easy for people who want to, you know, put racing in the worst possible light to seize on this and say, you know, this guy is a drugger or a cheater. It's not the case here."

Update at 11:50 a.m. ET. Was A Strong Favorite To Win; But Faced A Tough Challenge:

On Talk of the Nation Wednesday, the nation's best known racing writer said of I'll Have Another that "he's supposed to win. I think he'll win. I hope he'll win."

But though the horse was the 4-5 favorite in Saturday's Belmont Stakes and could have become the first to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, The Washington Post's Andrew Beyer and others who follow racing closely agreed there were good reasons to doubt he would do it.

The 1 1/2-mile Belmont is the longest of racing's biggest three races and horses just aren't bred for that long a race anymore, Beyer told Talk of the Nation's Neal Conan.

"And so when horses get into this race — even if they look good finishing it at a mile and a quarter in the Derby, as I'll Have Another did — it's a real unknown factor. I mean, it's kind of a crapshoot to know ... who's got the genes to go the distance."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.