LOS ANGELES -- A published report said Wednesday that Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another was ailing well before he was retired from racing with a tendon injury the day ahead of his bid to win the Belmont Stakes and become the first Triple Crown champion in 34 years.
The New York Times reported that veterinary records obtained from New York state racing officials show that I'll Have Another was being treated with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs in the weeks after his win in the Preakness on May 19 and before the June 9 Belmont.
According to the records, X-rays of the colt's front ankles and knees taken four days after the Preakness showed that I'll Have Another had osteoarthritis. Two days before the Belmont, the colt was injected with painkillers and a synthetic joint fluid.
"The painkillers are equivalent to Advil that you or I would take. They're far from painkillers," trainer Doug O'Neill told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "A painkiller, are you kidding me? It's irresponsible and fictitious."
The day before the Belmont O'Neill announced that I'll Have Another was being retired, citing an injury to the colt's left front tendon.
O'Neill said Wednesday that I'll Have Another did not have osteoarthritis. The newspaper had four veterinarians who did not treat the colt review his vet records.
"X-raying is something that is just part of my caretaking for the horses. It's perfectly normal to X-ray horses," O'Neill said. "To have four vets who have never seen the horse come and speculate off vet reports, it's irresponsible. I'll Have Another was sound, doing great all the way up until the tendon issue came up."
O'Neill called the Times report "irresponsible journalism."
"That horse went through every physical exam and blood exam known to man," he said. "He retired sound. He had the start of the tendon and we stopped on him. It's a time where I really think we should be celebrating I'll Have Another and all his accomplishments and applauding the Reddams for doing the right thing and not running him."
J. Paul Reddam and his wife owned I'll Have Another and recently sold him to Japanese interests. The colt is in quarantine for 30 days before heading to Japan to begin his breeding career.
"I love my horses," O'Neill said. "People actually pay me to care for them and I take that very seriously."