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By MICHAEL COMPTON ELMONT, N.Y. – ffirmed’s legacy is safe for another year. Hopes of the next Triple Crown winner, the first since Florida-bred Affirmed in 1978, were dashed before the running of the Belmont Stakes (G1). At a June 8 press conference outside the stakes barn on the backstretch of Belmont Park, I’ll Have Another’s owner, J. Paul Reddam, and trainer Doug O’Neill announced not only the prized colt’s scratch from the Belmont Stakes but his retirement from racing. Trainer Doug O’Neill said I’ll Have Another had developed swelling in his left front tendon that was the beginning of tendonitis. “This is extremely tough for all of us. It’s far from tragic but it’s extremely disappointing,” said O’Neill, who described the injury as a “freakish thing.” He has been a little quiet the last few days of galloping but his legs have been great. Yesterday he galloped great, but in the afternoon we noticed some loss of definition in his left front leg. We prayed he kind of hit himself and that it was a little bit of skin irritation. We did him up in a special poultice, and this morning he looked great. We did just a little easy gallop with him this morning. I thought he looked great on the track. “Cooling out, you could tell the swelling was back,” he added. “I talked with Mr. [J. Paul] Reddam and immediately we got Dr. [Jim] Hunt over here. He scanned him and he said it was the start of tendonitis in his [superficial] left front tendon and you give him three to six months and then start back with him. But obviously, he’s done so much, that it was unanimous to retire him. It’s a bummer, but far from tragic.” Despite I’ll Have Another’s absence, a crowd of 85,811 turned out on June 9, the sixth-largest in Belmont Park history, to witness a thrilling stretch duel in the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes that delivered plenty of excitement. In the end, it was Union Rags, under a masterful ride from John Velazquez, prevailing by a neck over pacesetter Paynter in a dramatic and tight finish. Paynter assumed command at the break of the 1½-mile marathon. He led the field through pedestrian fractions of :23.72, :49.23, 1:14.72, and 1:38.85 for the mile, while Union Rags rated comfortably along the inside in fifth position early. With Paynter unchallenged around the turn and into the stretch, it appeared that jockey Mike Smith and trainer Bob Baffert were about to gain retribution for their narrow losses with favored Bodemeister in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. But Velazquez and Union Rags had other plans. With no real opening to guide Union Rags outside other runners around the far turn, Velazquez boldly sent the long-striding colt up the rail and after Paynter. Under strong encouragement from Velazquez, Union Rags lengthened his enormous stride and utilized every inch of the 1½ miles to collar the pacesetter in deep stretch and post a neck victory over Paynter in 2:30.42. “I waited for a hole to open up and I got lucky,” said Velazquez, who won



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Profile for Florida Equine Publications

Florida Horse 2012 June/July Directory  

The Florida Horse magazine 2012 annual directory

Florida Horse 2012 June/July Directory  

The Florida Horse magazine 2012 annual directory