I’ll Have Another will not become the 12th Triple Crown winner. The three-year-old colt was scratched from today’s Belmont Stakes when his trainer Doug O’Neill discovered a swollen tendon in his left front leg. The horse could have raced, O’Neill said, but it would have been to his detriment and so he was promptly retired from the sport. I’ll Have Another will lead the post parade this afternoon before returning to Southern California tomorrow or Monday.
Race horses cost anywhere from $200,000 to a few million dollars. Owner J. Paul Reddam purchased I’ll Have Another last year for $35,000, a relative bargain. Although the pony may not have had a big-name pedigree, he came from horses that were not only speedy, but had great stamina, a trait that would have served him well in the mile-and-a-half-long Belmont. Furthermore, the horse bore a striking resemblance to Seabiscuit (another West Coast horse who inspired a nation and went into retirement with a left front leg injury…before making a big comeback) ; he had a big heart and hated to lose.
One wonders what might have been. And one hopes that history does not forget this horse and its surrounding cast of characters. People love underdogs. In February of this year, I’ll Have Another was an unknown horse with a no-name jockey that won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes with 43-1 odds. Within months of that victory, he became a rock star. In honor of I’ll Have Another, here are some odds and ends about him, Seabiscuit and horse racing in general:
1. My daughter has inherited my sizable collection of Breyer Horses, the realistic plastic equine models that are known for their detail and rich use of color. Maybe one of those models needs this I’ll Have Another name halter from eBay.
2. “He’ll have sex about three times a day — and then stay out all night. But he’s only doing his job.” So begins an entertaining “Speakeasy” post about I’ll Have Another’s father Flower Alley, a stud horse in Kentucky.
3. The Southern California racing community took news of I’ll Have Another’s retirement hard. According to this Los Angeles Times article, there were full-page ads urging locals to root for the hometown hero. Now area racetracks aren’t expected packed houses and boxing up the memorabilia they had planned to give away.
5. Seabiscuit was another horse who made a name for himself at Santa Anita Park. Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit: An American Legend is well worth the read, noting how “in 1938, a year of monumental turmoil, the number one newsmaker wasn’t Franklin Roosevelt or Adolf Hitler. It wasn’t even a person. It was an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse owned by a bicycle-repairman-turned-automobile-magnate, trained by a virtually mute mustang-breaker, and ridden by a half-blind failed prizefighter. The racehorse was Seabiscuit.” The story was turned into a 2003 movie starring Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper as the motley trio that surrounded this special horse.
6. In some respects, I’ll Have Another has been one of the best things to happen to horse racing, a sport that hasn’t been the source of too many positive stories. Various reports have noted the high fatality rate at U.S. tracks and poor treatment of horses, and politicians have made an issue of racing safety, urging better oversight. The Washington Post writes that I’ll Have Another’s withdrawal shows just how fragile and injury-prone racehorses are.
7. Jockey Mario Gutierrez will ride I’ll Have Another for the last time this afternoon. Like the horse he rode, Gutierrez rocketed to fame in a short period of time. Rather than bemoan his luck, he expressed gratitude for the chance to ride this horse. “He just brought happiness to my life,” Gutierrez said. “He’ll be my hero forever. I’m just glad that I was his jockey.” Here’s why Gutierrez and the horse were a perfect match.
8. Here’s an interesting Associated Press story about how J. Paul Reddam’s background as a philosophy professor serves him well as a racehorse owner.
9. Belmont horses were moved into a high-security detention barn this past Wednesday, which made trainers angry. Some racing industry insiders have said I’ll Have Another trainer Doug O’Neill was the reason for the move. O’Neill’s horses have tested positive in the past for elevated levels of carbon dioxide, which is sometimes a sign that they have been given substances to ward off fatigue. After the Belmont, O’Neill will serve a 45-day suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs in his horses, a charge he denies.
10. Bodemeister, the onetime favorite who finished second to I’ll Have Another in the first two Triple Crown races, will not be racing at the Belmont either today. Dullahan is the new favorite to win this afternoon’s race; O’Neill has said he plans to bet on him.