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I'll Have Another made it to the winner's circle at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday after all, but not for the reasons his connections had hoped.
Instead of being draped in a blanket of white carnations and crowned the first Triple Crown champion in 34 years, the three-year-old was paraded in front of the racing faithful for the final curtain call.
His highly-anticipated bid to become just the 12th horse to land the Triple Crown after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were dashed on the eve of the Belmont because of a swollen tendon.
The colt's heartbroken connections announced that he was being retired immediately for a career at stud and the New York Racing Association agreed to a proper sendoff.
An hour before the Belmont, I'll Have Another was walked from his barn at Belmont Park to the winner's circle where his trainer Doug O'Neill removed his saddle for the final time and gently patted his back.
"We felt that this would be a fitting ceremonial retirement for an incredible racehorse," said O'Neill. "There are many fans who travelled from near and far to see I'll Have Another today, and we wanted to give them a chance to help us send him off to retirement."
The chestnut colt raced just seven times for five wins and a second, earning almost $2.7 million in stakes. In his final season, he was unbeaten in four starts and won three consecutive Grade I events, the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
His absence from the Belmont took most of the buzz out of the raceday and the crowd was smaller than it would have been had he raced.
The disappointment was shared by everyone, even the connections of the rival horses, but no one was disappointed more than his Mexican jockey Mario Gutierrez, who was thrust into the American spotlight after being plucked from relative obscurity to ride I'll Have Another.
"Before I'll Have Another, no one knew who I was. It has been an unbelievable journey," Gutierrez said.
"I was 100 percent confident in my horse. A lot of people didn't believe in him ... and he proved them wrong, I know if he was 100 percent today, he would prove everybody wrong again."