On Friday morning, I was sitting at Arlington Park scanning tickets for the early morning simulcast bettors. I happened to check my phone and I saw that I had a text from a buddy of mine, and I found the horrifying news: "BREAKING NEWS: I'll Have Another pulled from the Belmont."
My response: "F^&*!!!!!!!!!"
I was depressed all Friday knowing that there would not be a Triple Crown bid on Saturday evening. It's such a shame that he wasn't able to run the race. Seeing a Triple Crown winner would be so cool, something the sport desperately needs.
I don't think the scratch is a black mark for horse racing, though. It sucks, sure, but it's far from the worst thing that could happen. The sport hasn't gotten a ton of great publicity lately (Eight Belles, Luck) and with all the controversy surrounding Doug O'Neill, I'll Have Another scratching because of injury was probably the best possible reason he could have not run the race.
I just realized that last sentence makes little to no sense.
What I mean is, it could have been much worse. If he had run and won, then tested positive for some sort of performance-enhancer, the sport would be ruined. If he had run the race and gotten badly injured during the race, the industry's credibility would have been shot to hell. All faith in horse racing would have been lost.
What happened, though, was a show of how much people care for these animals. Sure, the post-racing career for I'll Have Another went into the decision, but when it comes down to it, they did what is best for the horse. Retiring I'll Have Another because of injury should not be looked at as a tragedy. It's just an unfortunate reality of the sport of horse racing.
I feel awful for the connections of the horse, but let's be thankful they caught the injury before he more severely injured himself during the race.
As for the race itself, believe it or not, it still went on. Union Rags won a thriller. Quite frankly, I'll Have Another would have had as good a shot as any to win because the race set up pretty well. Had he run, he would have sat close to the pace that Paynter set. Give credit to Mike Smith for expertly rating Paynter on the lead, slowing down from a :23 second quarter to a :49 second half, and a 1:14 six furlong time. Union Rags just caught him in the final sixteenth of a mile in a finish that was ironically similar to this year's Preakness.
We'll always remember the run I'll Have Another made, it's just too bad he wasn't able to finish it.