The Day A Dream Died….I’LL HAVE ANOTHER Will Never Have Another….Just Don’t follow His Example ~ by The Sports Philosopher

June 11, 2012
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     We had a genuine Sports tragedy the other day.

     It was Friday.   Around 9 a.m.   My cell phone starting going off, signifying a text was coming in.   Then more incessant beeping, meaning another text was coming in.   Then another.   And another .   And still another.    All at once.   Before I could even open the damn thing up and see who was texting me no less than five texts had come in, all at once, from five different people.   Which had never happened to me before.   And they were all saying pretty much the same thing.

I'll Have Another wins the Kentucky Derby, but didn't contest the last leg of the Triple Crown due to injury.

I'll Have Another wins the Kentucky Derby, but didn't contest the last leg of the Triple Crown due to injury.

     I’ll Have Another, injured, scratched from the Belmont Stakes.

     I guess all these friends of mine were looking for the Sports Philosopher’s reaction.   Well, here’s my reaction.   I felt like I’d been raped.   I felt like someone had died.   I felt totally empty.   That’s my reaction.   Deflated beyond words.   (Well, not totally beyond words, not me, never me, but you get the idea.)

     This is the story.   Last saturday I’ll Have Another, a 3-year-old horse, was scheduled to run in the 144th Belmont Stakes in New York, where he would try to become the 11th thoroughbred racehorse—and the first in 34 long years—to capture the Holy Grail of American racing; the Triple Crown.

     Instead, suddenly, he became the 12th consecutive horse during those 34 years to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and then fail to win the Belmont.

     But the first to fail by failing to even get to the starting gate.

     This is why Sports is so great, and so awful, and such a valid metaphor for Life itself.   You never know what’s going to happen.

     This is also why the Belmont Stakes is the greatest horse race in America (not the Kentucky Derby, and not the Breeders’ Cup Classic), and why it is one of the half-dozen greatest days on our annual sports calendar.   It truly is the test of champions.   At a mile and a half it is the longest race any of these delicate three year old horses will ever run.   It comes at the end of a grueling, three-races-in-five-weeks trilogy, compounding the unfair fatigue of having already survived the Derby and the Preakness.   And being the last jewel in the Triple Crown, if you can get it, it makes you truly great.   The reason twelve horses in a row who have won the Derby and Preakness have failed to win the Belmont is no mystery, it’s because it is so damned hard to do!   It’s a very unfair thing to ask a horse to even attempt, much less expect him to succeed at.   That’s why it hasn’t been done in 34 years.

     Plus you get horses who lose the Derby and then skip the Preakness, unfairly conserving their energies, who then cravenly lay in wait for the Belmont.   These poachers, these sandbaggers, these cheap opportunists if you will, well, they succeed with this foul tactic far more often than a more equitable god would allow.   This year’s winner, Union Rags, was a poacher.   He lost the Derby as the favorite, skipped the Preakness, and then, as a more well-rested horse than those that had danced every dance, prevailed in the Belmont.   That’s just one more hurdle I’ll Have Another would have had to overcome.   Had he not been injured beforehand.

     The Belmont Stakes once gave us perhaps the greatest athletic performance I history.   It has now been 39 years since that race, easily the greatest single horse race of my lifetime, Secretariat’s otherworldly 31-length triumph in the 1973 Belmont, which won him the Triple Crown and stamped him as the greatest equine creature since Man o’ War.   Secretariat wasn’t supposed to possess the necessary distance pedigree to enable him to get a mile and a half.   But his one-horse Belmont parade established him as a freak, and made the word “great” seem insufficient to describe him.   I still get goosebumps every time I see it.     

     And now, four decades later, this year’s Belmont was supposed to be I’ll Have Another’s coronation.   His dazzling late turn of foot in the Derby and Preakness screamed his readiness.   But a swollen tendon sustained in a morning gallop ruined his chance, and it means we’ll never know if he was up to it.   We’ll never know.   He is the only Derby/Preakness winner to ever have not even competed in the Belmont.   Truly sad.

     Oh, and they also retired him.   To stud.   Good for him, I guess.   Not a bad job if you can get it.   But it also means we’ll never even know how good he could be.   Can you imagine if Josh Hamilton had 73 home runs with one game to go in the season, one homer away from breaking the all-time record, and then got injured warming up before the game, missed the game, and then retired from baseball the same day???   That’s what I’ll Have Another’s breakdown and retirement felt like to me.  Total emptiness.

     You never know in life.   So there’s no point in waiting around for something to happen.   You gotta make it happen.

     So seize the moment, pilgrim, cuz it might never come your way again.   If there’s a job you want, get it.   If there’s a risk you’ve always been too afraid to take, take it.   If there’s something really cool you don’t think you can quite afford to buy, buy it.   If there’s some magical place you’ve always wanted to see, go see it.

     Go somewhere.   Do something.

     Do something ridiculous.

     Me?   Well, I’m going to North Dakota this week.   Honest.   North Dakota.   It doesn’t get any more ridiculous than that.


meet….The Sports Philosopher!image003

Brad Eastland is an author, an historian, film buff, undiscovered literary savant, and a lover of horse racing despite its history of disappointment.   Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports Section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.   His columns on very old and very underappreciated movies can be found by clicking Arts & Entertainment, then clicking ’Upon Further Review’.   Brad has also written 4 fine novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack, of triumph, and of utter despair, entitled WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for that title in both hardback and paperback on,, or   And then order it.   And then READ it.   And then tell everyone about it.   And then read it again.   And then post your praise on Facebook.   For all this he thanks you…..




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