If the New York Times were looking to grab some attention, they certainly did…and let me add if you work for PETA or are a Horse Racing “hater” stop reading this now. This is a real world situation that we are about to discuss and it involves a behind the scenes look at what happened to I’ll Have Another in the weeks leading up to his disappointing scratch out of the 2012 Belmont Stakes.
Most of the information here comes directly from the NY Times in an article which was published two days (or so) ago.
I’ll Have Another, the horse attempting to become the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years, had physical ailments well before he was withdrawn from the June 9 Belmont Stakes on the eve of the race, and he was being treated with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
According to veterinary records obtained from New York State racing authorities, I’ll Have Another’s front ankles and knees were X-rayed only four days after his triumph May 19 in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown and those X-rays revealed that he had osteoarthritis.
Then, only two days before the Belmont, which I’ll Have Another needed to win to complete his Triple Crown quest, the colt was injected with two powerful painkillers as well as a synthetic joint fluid, the records show.
But the veterinarian records show that the colt’s ailments had been developing for some time, a fact underscored by a veterinarian, Dr. James Hunt, who did the X-rays after the Preakness and then performed an ultrasound examination on the colt the day before theBelmont.
It was after the ultrasound that Hunt concluded that I’ll Have Another had “chronic/active tendinitis.” He was immediately scratched from the race, the records show.
The records do not show whether I’ll Have Another was ailing during either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, and whether he was being given various painkillers as he prepared for those two races.
However, Dr. George Maylin, a veterinarian and longtime head ofNew YorkState’s testing laboratory for racehorses, said it was clear that “osteoarthritis has been with this horse for a period of time,” adding that “the tendon problem has also been existent for some period of time.”
Maylin was one of four veterinarians who did not treat I’ll Have Another but reviewed the records on behalf of The New York Times.
Maylin said he could not determine from the records just how serious I’ll Have Another’s problems were. “There is something there,” he said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t be treating it.”
New York authorities had access to the records only because they insisted that O’Neill, who has had repeated drug violations, provide them if they were going to license him inNew Yorkfor the race.
The use of pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs is neither illegal nor uncommon in racing. But the fact that drugs were being used on I’ll Have Another in the days before a race of immense national interest, and were being ordered by a trainer with a controversial past.
Dr. Sheila Lyons, a veterinarian who is testifying before the Senate panel and has examined many top-quality racehorses, said that osteoarthritis was not something a doctor expects to find in a relatively young horse like I’ll Have Another.
Lyons said the seriousness of the colt’s condition was evident in what occurred in the two days leading to the Belmont. First, she noted, I’ll Have Another received the two large doses of anti-inflammatories and a synthetic joint fluid. Then, the next day, O’Neill, in announcing the horse was being scratched, said I’ll Have Another showed signs of heat and swelling after an early-morning gallop.
“The fact that response was able to present itself in the face of those two powerful anti-inflammatories is just evidence that this was a very significant injury,” said Lyons, the founder and director of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.
The Blood Horse Magazine has a full health report posted on I’ll Have Another, click below to view it.