06/08/2012 12:51PM

The Belmont Without I'll Have Another


Stunned and bummed.

That is probably the best way to describe the mood here at Belmont Park Friday after the news that a tendon issue, which first surfaced Thursday afternoon and really came to a head after he galloped Friday morning, will prevent I’ll Have Another from attempting his sweep of the Triple Crown in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. The issue has, in fact, forced his retirement.

As an aside, this is not the first time a Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner has not started in the Belmont. Burgoo King, in 1932, and Bold Venture, in 1936, were the first two to achieve that dubious distinction.

So what is left of this Belmont Stakes without I’ll Have Another? It leaves us with a field of 11. It leaves us with only one horse who to date has won a graded stakes on dirt, Union Rags. It leaves us with only two previous graded stakes winners in total, with Dullahan, now the likely favorite off his rallying third in the Kentucky Derby, being the other. It leaves us with only one horse who has ever run fast enough to have earned a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure. Paynter, who earned triple-digit Beyers in his last two starts, is the one who achieved that. It might leave us with a Belmont grandstand half as full as it could have been with I’ll Have Another in the race. And, whether you picked I’ll Have Another or planned to bet against him, it also leaves us with an empty feeling, because we’ll never know what might have been.

Strangely, for a horse who was such a critical figure and who cast such an imposing shadow over the race, I’ll Have Another’s withdrawal won’t have much of an impact, if any, on the strategy of the Belmont. It wasn’t as if he was the lone speed, or the only closer in a race full of front runners. Paynter, My Adonis, and Unstoppable U will go out and in some fashion dispute a pace that still shouldn’t be all that fast. And Union Rags and Dullahan will still be attempting to rally into that pace.

The only thing is, we won’t have I’ll Have Another there as the standard by which all the other Belmont starters can be measured, so that we know what any of them do tomorrow is of real value. Or not.