I’ll Have Another, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner who scratched from the Belmont Stakes and a chance at the Triple Crown on the day before the race, had a history of injuries that was not disclosed to the public when the horse withdrew from the Belmont, reports The New York Times‘ Joe Drape and Walt Bogdanich.
Drape and Bogdanich, using veterinary records, found that I’ll Have Another had X-rays on his front legs only four days after the Preakness and that those X-rays determined the horse had osteoarthritis. The reporters also found that I’ll Have Another had received powerful pain killers and synthetic joint fluid (both of which are legal).
The report would seem to contradict comments made in the immediate aftermath of I’ll Have Another’s withdrawal on the eve of the Belmont. At the time, the horse’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, said that it was a “freakish thing,” and the injury was called a swollen left foot tendon.
“He galloped great yesterday, and then in the afternoon, he had a little bit of swelling in his left front leg,” O’Neill said the day before the Belmont. “This morning, he looked perfect. I took him out and just did a little something with him. After training, that swelling came back.”
O’Neill told Drape and Bogdanich that the horse was in good shape leading into the race and that he was not aware of the osteoarthritis diagnosis.
“I X-ray them routinely,” O’Neill said. “We were coming up to the biggest race of his life, and I wanted to make sure that he was perfect.”
…“He was sound,” O’Neill said of I’ll Have Another. “He had legs of iron or wouldn’t have been able to do what he did.”
I’ll Have Another was recently sold to a farm in Japan for $10 million.