WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – There will be no Triple Crown in horse racing in 2012.
Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I’ll Have Another will not race in the Belmont Stakes, the third and final race in the Triple Crown, because of a swollen tendon in his left front leg that signals the beginning of tendinitis, trainer Doug O’Neill said.
I’ll Have Another would have tried to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. This is the first year that the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will not run in the Belmont Stakes since 1936.
O’Neill felt some heat, which can be an indicator of a problem, in the horse’s leg on Thursday, but it dissipated. I’ll Have Another received an ultrasound examination Friday morning after he ran around the track and returned with swelling. Veterinarian Dr. James Hunt determined that the horse had the early stages of tendinitis.
Linda Rice, a four-time New York training title winner who works with the Hibiscus Stables in Somers, said horse racing fans will undoubtedly be disappointed that the Triple Crown possibility has ended.
“It’s disappointing, but you have to appreciate that they did the right thing for the animal,” Rice said.
Rice has seen injuries like this one in her career. She compared I’ll Have Another's running on the leg to a human's trying to play tennis with tendinitis, and said time and rest should heal this soft-tissue injury.
Rice said that I’ll Have Another may not need the reported three to six month to heal, but that the trainers are just being careful.
“When you’re talking about a horse of this caliber, I think they want to err on the side of caution,” Rice said.
Scott Tarter, owner of Twin Lakes Farm in Bronxville, is in Saugerties, N.Y.. with his 10 horses at the HITS Horse Shows in the Sun, where 2,000 horses will compete. The news about I’ll Have Another spread like wildfire from door to door among trainers and owners.
Tarter, like Rice, commended the horse’s trainers for making such a tough call.
“I couldn’t imagine. That has to be the hardest decision a trainer could ever have to face,” Tarter said. “It’s quite commendable for the trainer to put the horse’s well-being above the potential financial gain of the Belmont.”
Tarter added that I’ll Have Another more than likely has a “long career in the breeding shed ahead of him,” because the horse won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and the injury is not one that typically affects breeding.
The chance at the elusive Triple Crown may be gone, but Rice, a longtime horse racing fan, said there are still reasons to watch the Belmont Stakes.
“It’s still a great day of racing,” Rice said. “We’ll just have to find another hero to root for.”