The following guest blog was written by I’ll Have Another’s owner Paul Reddam in response to some of the concerns of the public regarding the colt’s injury and retirement. On a personal note, Reddam has always been extremely conscientious when it comes to the public’s feelings and the passion they exhibit when it comes to horses and racing and he appreciates all the emotion that has been invested in I’ll Have Another and the fans’ support throughout the Triple Crown.
After reading the article “I Won’t Have Another,” and reading some of the reaction to it, I would like to fill in a few blanks that have only amplified some racing fans’ feelings of frustration and forlorn with the outcome of the Triple Crown and the subsequent sale of I’ll Have Another. The purpose here is not to persuade people that what was done was correct, but rather to provide more information, so that emotions may have closure. I would expect that after reading this, there will still be fans who are cynical about the connections, think that this is a bunch of lies, what have you, but hey, that’s what makes racing so fun and challenging, isn’t it? Racing fans, especially the gamblers, are very opinionated and they will look at the same information and come to very different conclusions – hence, the toteboard.
Nevertheless, I’ll put it out there and let the chips fall wherever they land.
Having to scratch IHA the day before the Belmont was a complete shock. When he came off the track on Thursday, I was walking back to the barn with Doug (O’Neill) and he was so happy with how he had trained he said to me, “He can’t lose.” I had no inkling how ironic this prediction would turn out to be. A couple of hours later we had lunch and decided that the horse was fit and sound, so there was no need to doing anything strenuous on Friday and it was decided to give him an easy day. Doug said he would track him at 5:30 on Friday to avoid the hoopla and for me to give a call after that.
On Friday morning I called him about 6:45 and he said there were a lot of people around and could I call back in a little while. There was something odd in his voice, but I put it down to the stress of the situation. I reached him at about 9 o’clock and he said that IHA had some heat in his front leg and a little bit of swelling. He speculated that he had perhaps banged it and thought/hoped it was nothing. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to call the vet, as this would bring with it a media circus since the horse was in the same barn as the other Belmont participants. The horse demonstrated no lameness and thus it was a tough call.
Finally we decided that the vet should come and do a scan and if the results showed nothing, everything would ultimately be fine, and how could he be blamed for being extra cautious about our Triple Crown horse. Doug said he would call back in an hour. The first words in the call were, “No bueno.” My heart sank. The scan showed that IHA had a tiny tear in his tendon. Think of it like a tear in the seam of pair of pants. You could keep wearing the pants, and maybe the first time or two, the pants would hold, but eventually they would rip. Knowing this could happen, there was no choice but to scratch.
How about the decision to retire him that seemed from the outside to be made so hastily? This was very painful. I was in the lobby of the hotel when I got this news. To explain this, I have to get a little personal. When I hung up the phone I sat in a chair stunned and trying not to cry. My little brother appeared, took one look at me, and asked me if our dad had died. I told my wife that I just wanted to get on a plane and go home immediately. However, that is not how people I admire would have behaved, people like the Mosses, Bob Baffert, and Mike Smith, all of whom have conducted themselves with great dignity under the harsh light of our business.
I had been riding on the coattails of this magnificent horse, always the underdog, who was one day away from becoming the true people’s champion. It was just an accident that I ended up his owner and in truth I had very little to do with his progression from a longshot bomb in the Lewis to odds-on to win the Triple Crown. He gave me an experience that I would have never dreamed possible, this unbelievable horse with the athleticism, mind, and heart of a creature that few of us ever have touch us face to face.
Thus the decision to retire IHA was made in less than a minute, as I knew as soon as I heard the word “tear” what the right and dignified thing to do was. (The term tendonitis was a word O’Neill used, believing it covered anything to do with the tendon). Assume for the moment the other path was taken. It takes about a year for a horse to heal from a tendon lesion. I know this from having had horses who have had the same issue, including Momentum, who we scratched the week before the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2002. In Momentum’s case he made it back to the races in May 2004. He lasted one race and tore the tendon again. The fact is that horses hardly ever recover fully from a tendon injury, and generally speaking, even if they do eventually come back, there is a weakness in the tendon.
Is this the fate that this horse, undefeated at three, winner of the biggest race in the world, provider of an experience beyond a dream, something that money can’t buy, my true hero, deserved? Of course not. The actual decision to retire him was not even noble; it was the only thing that could be done under the circumstances as presented from my perspective. The hard part was going to Belmont and announcing it; seeing IHA looking absolutely fine and him having no idea that he would never run again.
Of course in retiring IHA, we knew there was a stallion deal to be made, so after the Belmont we sat back and waited for inquiries and offers. I confess I don’t know all of the ins and outs of the commercial breeding business, but prices for stallions are generally determined by what the farm thinks the stallion can stand for at a price where the stallion will get approximately 100 mares to breed on average over the first four years, understanding that the popularity and thus the number of mares and booking fee will be highest in the first year and then dwindle down through year four when the first crop hits the track.
There might have been a lot of talk behind the scenes, but there were only two written offers from American farms, one for 3 million dollars and the other for 2.5 million for half of the rights plus 9 lifetime breeding rights, which puts his value at a little less than 5 million. By contrast the offer from Big Red in Japan was 10 million, with another farm bidding just under that. For further contrast, Bodemeister’s rights recently purportedly sold for about 13 million in America.
Still, if I loved IHA so much, how could I take the Big Red offer instead of keeping the horse in partnership with a farm in America?
Well, certainly greed has something to do with it. Being that the one offer was four times higher in cash than the best offer here meant that I couldn’t rationalize not selling him overseas. Beyond that however, it should be said that the American offer anticipated a stud fee of $17,500 to $20,000, which means that he wouldn’t get the best mares and thus wouldn’t be given the best chance to succeed as a stallion. In contrast, the Big Red offer means that he will get a much better book of mares, and thus be given a higher chance for success. I am hopeful that we can buy a few of those mares in foal and bring them back to California, so we can have some IHA Cal-breds. As far as his care goes, he will get top quality care in Japan. People are not going to spend that kind of money on a horse and then neglect him. Certainly in Japan there is heightened sensitivity to this because of the Ferdinand tragedy a few years ago. Of course, if the horse was ever to become available we would buy him back.
I am saddened and surprised by my decision to sell IHA abroad, as I had assumed up until the day of his injury that he would run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Dubai World Cup, maybe even the Arc, and then after his 4 year old season, or 5 year old season if he continued to win at the top level, that he would be a big time stud in Kentucky. So I have to question whether I am that shallow, as undoubtedly some folks would have kept the horse here despite the money. If the difference had been 2 million in valuation, I could have justified it, but it wasn’t, so I did what I did. I don’t believe it means that I love and admire IHA any less, but these are the facts, and everyone who cares to can make up their own mind.