Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Trainer Graham Motion has been there before, making the impossibly tough choice not to run a horse dealing with an injury. It was "devastating" for him to hear of I'll Have Another being scratched from the Belmont Stakes with a tendon injury that robbed fans of a Triple Crown bid.
It wasn't the send-off anyone wanted for I'll Have Another. Led in circles around the paddock and then to the winner's circle at Belmont Park, the retired champion was cheered at every turn. This was a ceremony and one final chance to pay tribute to the horse who captured the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and was scratched from the Belmont Stakes with tendonitis in his left front leg.
The world was primed to see I'll Have Another turn the corner at Belmont Park on Saturday evening with the Triple Crown on the line. But as the other horses in the Belmont Stakes make that run, the colt who captured the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes will not be with them.
I'll Have Another overcame the challenge of 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby and the first dose of the burden of expectations in the Preakness Stakes. But to complete the Triple Crown, he'll have to deal with being the favorite for the first time.
A drive from Veracruz, Mexico, to Belmont Park would take almost two full days and cover 1,992 miles. Throw in a detour to tiny Hastings Park in Vancouver and stops at race courses in California, and you get an idea of what Mario Gutierrez has gone through since 2006.
Trainer Doug O'Neill is taking an unconventional path to a Triple Crown bid by using a series of strong gallops rather than formal workouts to prepare I'll Have Another for the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
Watching from the stands at Churchill Downs and then Pimlico Race Course, Doug O'Neill experienced the thrill of victory twice.
Chasing Bodemeister around the track at Pimlico Race Course, jockey Mario Gutierrez and I'll Have Another also were chasing a chance at history. This is what he and trainer Doug O'Neill were prepared for.
I'll Have Another ran down Bodemeister in the final furlong Saturday to win the Kentucky Derby, winding up in the winner's circle despite a rookie jockey, a more famous stable pony, and a price tag of just $11,000 as a yearling.
"He ran very good, but we did get shut off twice on each turn," Gutierrez said.
"The horse hasn't [brought] anything but happiness in my life," Gutierrez said. "I'm going to keep working hard. I don't want anybody to give me anything that I don't deserve. ... Those kind of horses are once in a lifetime."