Updated on 06/10/2012 5:00PM

I'll Have Another scratched from Belmont Stakes and retired with a tendon injury

Barbara D. Livingston
Paul Reddam and Doug O'Neill (right) console each other after announcing I'll Have Another will not run in the Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Someday there may be another Triple Crown winner, but it won’t be I’ll Have Another.

In news that was as shocking in its timing as for its substance, I’ll Have Another was not only scratched from Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, but was retired from racing with an injury to the tendon in his left foreleg, his connections announced Friday.

I’ll Have Another joins Burgoo King (1932) and Bold Venture (1936) as the only horses to have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but not compete in the Belmont.

I’ll Have Another’s scratch from the Belmont also means that Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown will go unclaimed for a 34th consecutive year. Affirmed, in 1978, was the sport’s 11th and most recent Triple Crown champion.

“I’m afraid history is going to have to wait for another day,” J. Paul Reddam, owner of I’ll Have Another, said at a somber press conference on the Belmont backstretch. “We tried to be quiet, but I really thought he was going to run off and really show something.”

Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill said that I’ll Have Another would need three to six months off before he could resume training. Further, there was no guarantee that he would be able to return to the top level of competition.

“We’re all a bit shocked, but we have to do what’s best for the horse,” Reddam said. “If he can’t compete at the top level . . . he’s done enough.”

O’Neill noticed swelling in I’ll Have Another’s left foreleg Thursday afternoon, but with treatment the swelling subsided. O’Neill sent I’ll Have Another to the track at 5:30 a.m. Friday – three hours earlier than usual – where he jogged and galloped.

Back at the detention barn, where I’ll Have Another has been stabled since Wednesday, O’Neill noticed the swelling had returned. He summoned Dr. James Hunt, a New York-based veterinarian to the barn. Hunt did a nuclear scan, which revealed the beginnings of a tendon injury.

The injury is not a bowed tendon, one where horses would often need a year or more away from the track to return. It is not life-threatening.

“A bowed tendon you actually have a large lesion in the core of the tendon,” O’Neill said.  “This is the beginning of a tendon. Could he run and compete? Yes. Would it be in his best interest? No.”

As Friday’s press conference began, I’ll Have Another was led out of the barn by O’Neill to be seen by the press. He later grazed as O’Neill and Reddam spoke.

Later, it was announced that I’ll Have Another would lead the post parade for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said by running in the Belmont I’ll Have Another would exacerbate the injury.

“The tendon is a biologic cable,” said Bramlage, who did not examine the horse. “He has a few fibers that are injured now. If you run on them, more fibers [will be injured]. It’ll be like unraveling a cable or a rope. It increases the strain, and he’s got to go a mile and a half.”

O’Neill said I’ll Have Another would return to his base at Hollywood Park on Monday. His connections will sort out stallion plans at a later date.

About two hours before the press conference, O’Neill, in a brief phone interview with Daily Racing Form, called the injury to I’ll Have Another “a huge disappointment. At the same time what a horse, what a run. Though it’s heartbreaking, it’s not tragic. We’ll be back with another one, hopefully next year.”

On the advice of Dennis O’Neill, Doug’s brother, Reddam purchased I’ll Have Another for $35,000 out of the 2011 Ocala Breeders Sales 2-year-old in training auction. The horse was purchased for $11,000 as a yearling by Victor Davila, a former groom who works as an exercise rider for Eisaman Equine in Florida.

I’ll Have Another won his debut at Hollywood Park on July 3, before finishing second to Creative Cause in the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar in August.

On his first trip to New York, I’ll Have Another finished sixth in the Grade 1 Hopeful run over a sloppy track at Saratoga, a race from which he emerged with bucked shins.

He didn’t make his 3-year-old debut until Feb. 4, when he upset the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes at odds of 43-1. He would win the Santa Anita Derby by a nose over Creative Cause before running down the speedy Bodemeister in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

All four of those wins for I’ll Have Another came with the unheralded jockey Mario Gutierrez aboard.

When asked what I’ll Have Another meant to him, Gutierrez said, “He’s my hero.”

Gutierrez was to be aboard I’ll Have Another during Saturday’s post parade.

O’Neill and Reddam held an afternoon press conference outside Barn 2, the detention barn set up to house all the Belmont Stakes horses.

On Wednesday, O’Neill had to move the horse from Barn 9 – where he had been stabled since May 20 – to the stakes barn.

“Some people have asked if I thought the detention barn had anything to do with this,” O’Neill said. “Absolutely not. It’s a freakish thing.”

John Sabini, chairman of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, was responsible for setting up the detention barn. It was set up primarily because of O’Neill’s 2010 violation for one of his horses having excess level of carbon dioxide for which he was given a 45-day suspension by the California Horse Racing Board.

“The decision to scratch I’ll Have Another is disappointing, but Doug O’Neill and Mr. Reddam put the welfare of the horse first, showing true horsemanship,” Sabini said in a statement. “Despite the fact that a Triple Crown winner will not be named this year, we look forward to an exciting and safe Belmont Stakes.”

The scratch of I’ll Have Another will likely leave Dullahan, the third-place finisher from the Kentucky Derby, as the probable favorite for the Belmont.

Though confident his horse could beat I’ll Have Another, Dale Romans, trainer of Dullahan, said it was “devastating” that he’s not in the field.

“It makes our job a little easier, but I wanted to compete with him,” Romans said. “It would have been a special race to win with him in there. It’s still going to be a great race, but it would have been one for the ages if he was in there.”

In 1995, D. Wayne Lukas had to scratch Timber Country, who had won the Preakness, from the Belmont the day before the race due a temperature. Lukas won that Belmont with Thunder Gulch, who had won the Kentucky Derby but finished third in the Preakness.

Lukas, who was scheduled to run Optimizer in Saturday’s Belmont, said he felt “terrible” for O’Neill.

“I know how he’s feeling to come this close and to have arguably the best horse – that’s the thing,” Lukas said. “I think everything being equal, you had to give him the nod of being the best horse.”

Whether he was worthy of winning the Triple Crown, we’ll never know.

– additional reporting by Jay Privman