I’ll Have Another gets his moment in winner’s circle
ELMONT, N.Y. — Trainer Doug O’Neill gave his horse three friendly slaps on the flank, removed his saddle, and I’ll Have Another was led out of the Belmont Park winner’s circle into retirement.
I’ll Have Another never got a chance to try for a Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday after an injured tendon caused the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to be scratched and then retired on the eve of the race.
About a half hour before the Belmont, the colt’s handlers led I’ll Have Another from the paddock, through the tunnel and into the winner’s circle. The crowd cheered for the few minutes, and jockey Mario Gutierrez climbed aboard for a few quick pictures.
He jumped off, O’Neill took off the colt’s saddle, and I’ll Have Another was led back to his barn.
“I wish I can be unsaddling him in the winner’s circle after a win,” O’Neill said. “He was a once-in-a-lifetime, heroic horse.”
Gutierrez, largely unknown before the Derby, later reflected on what I’ll Have Another meant to his career.
“He’s the one that brought us here,” Gutierrez said. “We have to take care of him. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here. He’s given this to me. I’ve got the Kentucky Derby. I got the Preakness. No one can take it away. It will stay with me the rest of my life, thanks to I’ll Have Another. He made that possible.”
A SUCCESS? YOU BETCHA
Business was brisk for the Belmont Stakes on Saturday despite the loss of star attraction I’ll Have Another.
The retirement of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Friday because of a left leg injury robbed the Belmont of the sure-fire draw of a Triple Crown bid.
Against that backdrop, the numbers were solid.
The crowd of 85,811 was sixth-largest in track history. It was the highest turnout for a Belmont Stakes without a Triple Crown on the line, erasing the mark of 73,857 in 2001.
And they came to gamble.
The $13,777,920 bet at Belmont was the second-highest ever, trailing only the $14,461,402 in 2004 when Birdstone denied Smarty Jones the Triple Crown.
Total betting on the card, including bets from all locations across the country, was $96,485,985, third highest for a Belmont.