Embattled trainer Doug O’Neill hopped onto the Dan Patrick syndicated radio show near the end of the program to officially declare I’ll Have Another is out of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, ending his hopes of a Triple Crown.
“They’re currently pulling all sharp objects and shoelaces away from me here over the last few minutes,” O’Neill tried to joke before breaking the news.
O’Neill said the 3-year-old had problems with his left front leg that led to swelling this morning and a track vet said there was the start of tendinitis developing.
“He’s not 100 percent and we ain’t taking any chances,” said O’Neill. “It’s not tragic, but it’s a huge disappointment.”
O’Neill didn’t know how I’ll Have Another injured himself, calling it “a freakish thing.” He said he doesn’t expect I’ll Have Another to race again, but to be sent to breeding.
This may lead to more speculation that O’Neill — often referred to as “Drug” O’Neill — has done something sabotoged a horse’s health. O’Neill has a history of improperly medicating horses and has been under more scrutiny after I’ll Have Another, the Santa Anita Derby winner, won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and was the 4-5 favorite to win the Belmont and become the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years.
“I’m sure I’ll still watch the race with a few Amstel Lights and think ‘That could have been me’ but it’s such a great race and everyone there is so great,” said O’Neill. “Hopefully we’ll still have a full house. There are a number of people who want to slap me around a little bit but it’s in the full interest of the horse.”
O’Neill could have had a chance of some kind of redemption had I’ll Have Another won the Triple Crown. He recently told the Associated Press (linked here) he’s not discouraged by nicknames pinned on him based on his track record: “It just happens that my name rhymes with that. You can say whatever you want. I know at the end of the day I love my horses and I take great care of my horses.”
A press conference at the Belmont track will take place at 1 p.m. (EDT) carried live on NBC Sports Network and streamed on NBCSports.com.