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Rival trainers comment on I'll Have Another's defection
Upon learning the news that Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero I'll Have Another was retired with a tendon injury on the eve of the Belmont Stakes, rival trainers expressed their thoughts.
"It's devastating," said Dale Romans, the trainer of new 9-5 favorite Dullahan. "I really wanted him to compete. This was going to be a special race, one of the biggest races of our time. It's just devastating.
"We're going to inherit the role as favorite, but I'd rather have him in there. I think we could have competed with him and it would have been a great race and great for the sport. It would have been something special to beat him.
"I heard right after we trained that the vets were in there working on him. My assistants called me and when I came back there, I saw they had an ultrasound machine and that's never a good sign.
"It's usually something that just happens. You're under too much scrutiny here. If something was going on, we would have seen it on the racetrack before this. It's just a shame.
"It's not even good for me, because I am racing. It would have been better for me to go out there and beat him. I don't want to win it with an asterisk by his name; I wanted to compete with him.
"I don't know if (the detention barn) played a role in this or not, but we're always going to wonder. We will always wonder."
Michael Matz, trainer of 3-1 second choice Union Rags, was reached by telephone.
"I came home last night," Matz said. "I didn't know what the situation was, and today people were texting back and forth. I feel sorry for the horse. It would have been nice to try to get the Triple Crown, that's for sure."
"I feel really terrible for the connections," said Ken McPeek, who will saddle Belmont hopefuls Unstoppable U and Atigun.
"To do what they've done and what they've been through -- it's like completely letting the air out of a balloon. Doug (O'Neill) has done this for a long time and he'll keep his head up and they'll come back in the future."
"I feel bad for Doug (O'Neill), to get that close," said Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Optimizer.
"I had Timber Country, the favorite for the (1995) Belmont and scratched the night before. The assistant said Timber Country had a 105 temperature."
Lukas still won that year's Belmont with Thunder Gulch, the Kentucky Derby winner who was coming off a third to Timber Country in the Preakness.
"I want to talk to (Doug)," Lukas said. "That's the part of the game the public doesn't understand. It's not like you can do this thing and just run him another time. You only get one chance to do this. From the standpoint of a purist it's a blow. It will be a very good race, anyhow.
"A.P. Indy came out of the (1992) Derby," Lukas continued. "We've had it before. It's not unprecedented. For Doug to get the horse this far, he's had to practically live with him. It practically brings you to your knees. It's humbling."
"It's a shame what happened, a potential Triple Crown winner," said Dominick Schettino, who trains Five Sixteen. "It would have been great for the sport."
"I feel bad for the connections, I have to be be honest with you," said Kelly Breen, trainer of My Adonis and 2011 Belmont winner Ruler on Ice. "To get so close and have something like that happen, is very unfortunate.
"I'm sure that the fans will be disappointed, but the Belmont's the Belmont. It's still a Triple Crown race.
"We'll still go over with our game plan tomorrow. All I can do is try to get my horse ready, and that's it."
My Adonis trained at 5:30 (EDT) Friday, the same time as I'll Have Another.
"He looked pretty good going out to the track (this morning)," Breen said. "I didn't see him coming back because I was done before him, but he did look good."
"What I do in the morning, I look at my horses," said Doodnauth Shivmangal, owner-trainer of Guyana Star Dweej. "I don't look at other people's horses. As a trainer, I don't breeze too much myself, but I thought something wasn't right.
"If you have an ankle or a knee, you can try to work with it, but a tendon is a very, very serious issue in a racehorse. Every time they stretch that tendon, it gets worse and worse. It depends on where the tendon is. A tendon takes time, and the only thing that heals a tendon is time. It's a lot of time to put into the horse. They can come back pretty good, but it depends. Once they have that issue, it tends to come back again.
"That's horse racing. We understand that things like that happen. But it's not good. I don't like it. It's not pleasant for me. The competition will be one less horse I have to worry about, but in my heart, deep down, it's not something that I want to happen."
Kiaran McLaughlin, who withdrew Alpha from Belmont consideration with fitness issues on May 31, also commiserated with connections.
"It's very disappointing for everybody involved in our industry, especially all the people close to I'll Have Another," McLaughlin said. "It's just really a sad day in our industry. Luckily the horse is OK and he'll live on to be a stallion and we'll hope that we have a Triple Crown winner next year.
"It's a still a very good race tomorrow and a great card. They put together a great card for Saturday. It's disappointing."