Mario Gutierrez’s epic run for the Triple Crown ended early last week, after thoroughbred I’ll Have Another was scratched one day before the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y.
I’ll Have Another was pulled from the race because of tendinitis in his left front leg, dashing his and Gutierrez’s storybook run that was made possible after the duo won the first two legs of the prestigious Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
Trainer Doug O’Neill and owner Paul Reddam, at an impromptu press conference from a barn at the Belmont Stakes, announced Friday morning that I’ll Have Another would retire from racing, for fear that the sport could further injure the horse.
O’Neill said Gutierrez – a former South Surrey jockey – “was sad for the horse (and) he had a tremendous bond with (I’ll Have Another).”
I’ll Have Another and Gutierrez, who lived for six years at the home of South Surrey horse-owner Glen Todd, captured the world’s attention last month, after the duo’s victories in Kentucky and Maryland.
The last horse to win all three races in a single year was Affirmed and jockey Steve Cauthen in 1978. Since then, 11 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to come up short at the Belmont Stakes.
I’ll Have Another was the first horse in 78 years to skip the Belmont after winning the first two; the last was Bold Venture in 1936.
Without I’ll Have Another in the field Saturday, the 1½-mile Belmont Stakes was won by Union Rags.
Gutierrez, who now lives in Los Angeles and rides out of famed Santa Anita Park, had been a popular figure in New York in the week prior to the announcement. He appeared Thursday night as a guest on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and on Friday night, was scheduled, along with O’Neill, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Mets-Yankees game, but the appearance was cancelled after I’ll Have Another was scratched.
Gutierrez was also given celebrity treatment back in the Lower Mainland, returning after each of his Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories. After his Derby win, an appearance at Hastings Parks – where he won hundreds of races in a six-year span – drew thousands of fans.
“Before I’ll Have Another, no one knew who I was,” Gutierrez, 25, said at an offical press event last week. “It has been an incredible journey.”