• No Triple Crown for I’ll Have Another

    POSTED Jun 8, 2012
    This isn’t the way it was supposed to end. Instead of winning — or losing — the Triple Crown on the racetrack, I’ll Have Another was defeated in the barn, when it was discovered that he had a tendon injury.

    The colt’s trainer, Doug O’ Neill, delivered the tragic news on the “Dan Patrick Show.”

    “I'll Have Another is officially out of the Belmont,” O'Neill said. “We scanned his left front leg and he's got the start of tendinitis going on in his front leg. He's not 100 percent and we ain't taking any chances.”

    Hinting that the horse may never race again, O’Neill added: “It's not tragic, but it's a huge disappointment. I'm just so bummed for the horse, obviously, and then for the whole team.”

    Racing fans seem to share O’Neill’s disappointment. In fact, based on what I read on various social media sites, the Mayans were wrong only about the date — officially, the world ended on June 8, 2012.

    It is to those I say… well, perhaps I can best express my sentiments with a song:

    Feel better? 

    Yeah, my kids don’t find it amusing when I perform that number for them either, especially since my singing voice sounds like a prepubescent bullfrog with a drinking problem. But, let’s be honest: If I’ll Have Another had run — and run badly — many of the same folks weeping and gnashing their teeth now would still be doing so… it’s just a matter of timing.

    Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports notes that “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.” 

    But that doesn’t give the whole picture. Remember Majestic Prince?

    Like I’ll Have Another, Majestic Prince won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (in 1969) and, also like I’ll Have Another,  the son of Raise a Native was initially ruled out of the Belmont due to an undisclosed injury (believed to be a tendon problem).

    I say “initially” because public pressure, including a featured article in Sports Illustrated, prompted Majestic Prince’s owner Francis Murray Patrick McMahon to override his trainer Johnny Longden’s (yes, that Johnny Longden — the former champion rider) decision not to ship to New York.

    Majestic Prince finished second behind Arts and Letters in the Belmont Stakes. And despite besting that rival in two out of three head-to-head meetings in the Triple Crown series, Arts and Letters wound up being named the nation’s top three-year-old, as well as Horse of the Year in 1969.

    Meanwhile, Majestic Prince never raced again.

    The fact is none of us knows whether or not I’ll Have Another would have won the Belmont. Personally, I think a lot of longtime racing observers like myself — in our heart of hearts — doubted that Doug O’Neill’s sophomore star was in the same class as previous Triple Crown champions like Secretariat or Citation or Affirmed (personally, I wasn’t even sure I’ll Have Another was as good as some of the near-misses, like Spectacular Bid). But, now, fans of the horse can forever assert that he was... and that may be the silver lining in this dark cloud.

    Look, I’ll be frank: I thought very highly of Barbaro after his scintillating win in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, but I’m not so sure that even had he not been injured he would have beaten Bernardini in the Preakness Stakes. Bernardini was fast — his speed figures dwarfed those of Barbaro; yet, to those who loved him, Barbaro will forever be the greatest horse of his generation.

    (Click on image to enlarge)
    (Click on image to enlarge)
    To those who love him, I’ll Have Another will forever be the greatest of his generation as well. And that’s all that really matters.

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