VIENNA, Va., July 12, 20012 — New information has come to light concerning the strange situation about why the day before the Belmont Stakes was to be run, I’ll Have Another, who had won both the Derby and the Preakness, was suddenly pulled from the lineup. The reason given at the time was that he had somehow sustained what was called by trainer his Doug O’Neill a “freakish injury” and they had decided not to run him.
In an interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered” today, Melissa Block talked with New York Times racing reporter Joe Drape to get the backstory on the situation.
Saying that the New York Times had been working on the race horse situation for over a year, Drape reported that the truth was that I’ll Have Another had been suffering from osteoarthritis and chronic tendonitis for over a year, and had been constantly medicated with both pain killers and NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and other non-steroidal medications.
The purpose, Drape said, was to “prop up the horse and make him fit to race; it masks the symptoms of what is actually wrong with him,” Drape explained. Many of these drugs and medications are legal in the United States, which is a bone of contention internationally, since they are not permitted in many foreign countries. Apparently this has become a regular practice of many owners and trainers, just as football players and others are medicated for known injuries so that they are able to continue playing and forget the pain.
The only difference is that should pain still become a problem, the human athlete can let the coach or trainer know. The four-legged racer can only bite on his bit and keep running, regardless of the pain.
There appeared to be some question whether or not J. Paul Reddam, the owner, was aware of the medicating going on or if this remained the general province of the trainer. O’Neill has been under a microscope for drugging or dosing horses, and presently faces a 45 day suspension in New York state for dosing horses with a combination of liquids known as “milk-shaking.”
Taking the situation a step further, Drape said that the United States “leads the world in catastrophic breakdowns of race horses, averaging 24 a week, the most of any country in the world.”
It’s another sad phase in the story of I’ll Have Another, who has just been sold for big bucks and shipped to Japan for breeding over there by a Japanese stable. If it is found by veterinary medicine specials that these chronic ailments could be somehow genetically passed on, his breeding stature might suffer significantly. Either way, it sounds like the horse comes out the loser.
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