I'll Have Another, the hard-finishing winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes who was going to race for the Triple Crown on Saturday, will scratch from the Belmont Stakes, the horse's trainer, Doug O'Neill, officially announced Friday morning on the Dan Patrick Show.
The horse will retire from racing, O'Neill said at a press conference early Friday afternoon.
"It's not tragic, but it's a huge disappointment," the trainer said.
I'll Have Another's injury is being called a swollen left foot tendon.
"He galloped great yesterday, and then in the afternoon, he had a little bit of swelling in his left front leg," O'Neill said. "This morning, he looked perfect. I took him out and just did a little something with him. After training, that swelling came back.
"I had the vet come over, and he scanned his left front leg, and he’s got the start of some tendinitis."
Because the horse isn't 100 percent, "we ain't taking any chances," he said. O'Neill said the horse looks fine. I'll Have Another walked in front of the media at the press conference.
O'Neill said he wasn't sure how or when I'll Have Another was injured.
"Usually, these types of injuries, they either hit themselves, either like a hind foot came up and whacked his front left leg," O'Neill said, "or just hyperextended. He’s got such a beautiful long stride, (maybe he) just strained himself from the stride. It’s just a freakish thing."
O'Neill said at the press conference later Friday that I'll Have Another's injury could have healed and allowed for a comeback. The doctors said they could have given the horse three to six months of rest and tried starting up again. But it was a "unanimous" decision to retire him.
I'll Have Another went from an overlooked $35,000 purchase to the brink of history. The horse would have been attempting to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. He now becomes the 12th horse since Affirmed to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but to fail to win the Belmont.
I'll Have Another also becomes just the third horse to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown and then not start the Belmont. Bold Venture in 1936 and Burgoo King in 1932 were the others.
I'll Have Another opened as a 4-5 favorite to win the Belmont. It was the first time in I'll Have Another's career that he was the betting favorite.
Dullahan, the third-place finisher at the Kentucky Derby, is the new betting favorite at 5-2. He opened at 5-1. Union Rags is next at 3-1. Rumors of the scratch began floating on Twitter a few minutes before the official confirmation when word spread that O'Neill was holding a press conference in the afternoon.