I'll Have Another held the weight of the horse-racing world on his big, broad horse shoulders at the 2012 Belmont Stakes. Everything fell apart when he was forced to retire due to tendonitis, and as a result cast a dark shadow over the entire sport.
Even a great race won by Union Rags (who had a lot of hype behind him at the Kentucky Derby) at Belmont will not be enough to bring back the potential crowd that horse racing would have had if I'll Have Another had run the race.
As Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News wrote, nothing that happened last Saturday really felt like it mattered:
It just wasn’t the finish everybody had come to see, because everything had changed the day before when it was announced that I’ll Have Another was hurt, tendinitis, and retired on the spot, just like that, goodbye.
I'll Have Another is not only a horse who is capable of winning all three legs of the Triple Crown. I'll Have Another is the inspiration for the strong story that has captivated a nation that would not have been interested in the sport, otherwise.
While he did not completely destroy any future interest in the sport, losing I'll Have Another makes it very difficult for fans to get invested in horse racing, more specifically the quest for a Triple Crown.
People, by nature, are fickle creatures. If you tease us with something for so long, eventually we are going to stop holding interest in it.
We have seen five horses in the last decade, including I'll Have Another, who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. All of them failed to finish it off. I'll Have Another was the only one to not run in the Belmont.
Perhaps there is something to the theory about having these three grueling races take place in such close proximity to one another. I'll Have Another was the present and future of the sport. He was going to bring it the national attention it really never gets.
Losing I'll Have Another doesn't just stop with the Belmont Stakes having ended. The aftershock will be felt for a long time to come, which is a shame because we were so close to seeing something truly special from this animal and a sport that needed something special.