By Eclipse Award-Winning Writer Sean Clancy, St Publishing
Hate our game? I love our game. I love it for the madness. For the unknown.
For the highs and lows. I love it because out of all us experts, from all
the analysis, from all the concocting and conjecture, nobody could come up
with this scenario. I’ll Have Another scratched Friday afternoon, the day
before his attempt at ending the Triple Crown drought. Some game.
I didn’t like the way he galloped Wednesday and Thursday; just not the same
style or flourish as he exuded before the Derby and Preakness. Looked like a
tired horse on tired wheels. Sound, sure. Spent, probably. I didn’t think he
would scratch, didn’t predict he had a tendon, didn¹t fathom it would all be
over this soon, this fast. Tendonitis. Non-definition. Bowed tendon, in any
parlance. He¹s finished, retired, suddenly a footnote. Like it or hate it,
in this game, it’s on to the next one. Next race, next star. I’m glad it was
discovered Friday and not at 6:41 on Saturday.
As trainer Doug O’Neill said, “It’s a bummer.” Yeah, that’s it, a bummer.
The big horse has left the building. Off to another career, another chapter.
He went from being the horse who would save horse racing (blah, blah, blah)
to another 2-for-3 stallion prospect, wedged somewhere between Point Given
and Real Quiet.
It was a good ride. Five weeks, short a day.
Horse racing is the ultimate Indian giver. It gives, then it takes. It
gives, then it takes. It gave us I’ll Have Another, his across-the-tracks
jockey, his likable but divisive trainer and the rest of an eclectic team
who enjoyed the ride. Then it took them away. Boom, without warning, without
salve, without apology. Over and done.
You either like it or you don¹t. Nah, you don¹t ever like that a horse is
scratched, injured, retired. But you still have to like the game for its
decisiveness, for its demands, for its truth. If you like it, you stay and
soldier on, somehow developing a membrane of protection from the knife
swipes that come fast and furious. If you don’t like it, can’t handle it,
aren’t captivated by the rowboat-in-a-storm nature, then you get out and get
out quickly. Continuously, people get in, think they’re better, smarter,
tougher than the game their epitaphs line the bottom of horse racing’s
There was a time when I hated the game at moments like this. When my
father’s horse Owhata Chief fell at the first fence in the Colonial Cup.
When Genuine Risk was mugged in the Preakness. When my saddle slipped and I
fell off inches before the wire at Saratoga. When Smarty Jones withered.
When Funny Cide wilted. When Mambo In Seattle lost a photo and cost me
thousands. When . . . when . . . when . . .
Then one day, I realized that I love it for the madness. For the unknown.
For the highs and lows.
It’s either in you or it’s not.
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