I'll Have Another: Why Trainers Are Right to Shut Horse Down After InJury

Ben LeibowitzCorrespondent IIIJune 9, 2012

ELMONT, NY - JUNE 08:  I'll Have Another is walked back to his barn from the detention barn on June 8, 2012 in Elmont, New York. It was announced earlier in the day that the horse has been scratched from the 2012 Belmont Stakes, ending his bid for a Triple Crown.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Yesterday, devastation and disappointment rattled the horse racing world. I’ll Have Another, the odds on favorite at 4-5 to win not only today’s Belmont Stakes, but also the first Triple Crown since 1978, was scratched and retired due to issues with tendinitis.

There will without a doubt be less excitement in the air this year than there should have been. From a New York Times article by Ryan Goldberg and Melissa Hoppert, a fan who has been to every Belmont race since 1980, Jimmy Crennan, said, “I’m sure there will be 30,000 less people here tomorrow now.”

Watching the Belmont is always more electrifying when you have a chance to witness history. But the fans and the sport in general are the biggest losers in this case, not I’ll Have Another.

According to I’ll Have Another’s owner, J. Paul Reddam, and his trainer, Doug O’Neill, the former Triple Crown candidate has run his last race, and honestly, that’s just fine.

Fatalities in horse racing have increasingly become a hot button issue. Horse deaths even caused the HBO show “Luck” to be cancelled in favor of protecting the horses.

Regardless of what is at stake today historically for I’ll Have Another, the smartest decision, and the right decision, is to shut him down.

For race fans, this has to draw parallels to Barbaro, an extremely gifted horse who won the Kentucky Derby in 2006 and was being hyped as the favorite to win the next Triple Crown.

Despite the hype, Barbaro’s right rear leg snapped during the Preakness Stakes in 2006, in what is still one of the most gruesome injuries to watch from any sport.

Barbaro underwent multiple operations in an attempt to give the horse another chance at life. After eight months with no improvement, his owners and veterinarians concluded that Barbaro would never heal. Barbaro was euthanized on January 29, 2007.

Although Barbaro did not have any medical conditions we’re aware of that could have prevented this injury, it was still a catastrophic loss to the racing community and one of the most difficult scenes to watch on television.

Perhaps more difficult to view than the initial injury, are the photos of the once great race horse being lifted out of a recovery pool from a harness. The sight is similar to watching Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest boxer who ever lived, struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

We never want to watch our champions in their times of turmoil, and thanks to the owners and trainers of I’ll Have Another, we will avoid seeing another horrific injury to a valued horse.

Could I’ll Have Another still race in the Belmont? If that decision was made, I’m sure the horse would run, but the risk is too catastrophic.

I’ll Have Another will be retired to stud, which is the best decision that could have been made.

Who knows, maybe someday down the road one of I’ll Have Another’s offspring will finish what their dad started.