Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 8/30/14

Horse Racing’s 2012 three year old male division is starting to remind me of a M*A*S*H unit, kind of like last year. It started with 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I’ll Have Another retiring with a leg injury on the eve of the Belmont Stakes and (hopefully) it ends with Derby and Preakness runner up Bodemeister this (Wednesday) morning.

Like any other sport, injuries in these young and fragile athletes are quite typical. Now in my 33rd year of following this sport, I almost expect some, or a lot of them, not to finish out the year. Like the Metallica song goes, “Sad, But True”

Last year was no bargain either. In 2011, if you recall top flight three year olds Uncle Mo (bacterial infection), Tapizar (leg), Archarcharch (foot), Toby’s Corner (knee), To Honor and Serve (tendon) and, of course, Animal Kingdom (hock), all spend significant time on the shelf.

This year, just about every top three year old male has gone down with injury in a very short period of time, (since the beginning of June?) and its beginning to frighten me. I mean, can any of these horses stay healthy?

It really started when we, and the entire world for that matter, were informed that 2012 Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont Stakes, less that 24 hours before running in it, with a lower leg injury.  This was devastating to his connections as well as the entire Horse Racing world. The majority of people thought I’ll Have Another would snap a 34 year Triple Crown hiatus. But it didn’t stop there…

Union Rags, who won the Belmont Stakes and who I thought might be able to take over as the division leader, injured a tendon in his left leg while training at his home base at Fair Hill, Md. and was put away for the year only to learn a few weeks later, he too, was retired.

That left the wickedly fast Bodemeister, who was second in both the Derby and Preakness, as the heir apparent. Well, he was  the heir apparent until he came down with a fever and, after being scratched from the Haskell Invitational last month, his future is up in the air.

“I’ve had a rash of sickness going through my barn,” trainer Bob Baffert said shortly before the Haskell (July 29). “It takes a week for it to run its course. I treat them all with penicillin. [Bodemeister] looked good today, though … [his illness] is not serious. I just really jump on them with an antibiotic immediately.”

Evidently, Bodemeister has not bounced back at 100% just yet as this past week Zayat Stables, who owns the good looking colt by Empire Maker, tweeted “Bodemeister is not training well”.

That comment was followed up this (Wednesday) morning when Baffert said via Twitter “Bodemeister being sent to Rood and Riddle for a complete physical today.”

Bodemeister (#7) and I’ll Have Another (#9),shown here running 1-2 in the 2012 Preakness, have both had issues this year.

Now enter Paynter, for whom trainer Bob Baffert called a “serious racehorse” and was proven correct after this colt by Awesome Again ran a bang up second to Union Rags in the Belmont in just his fifth career start and by winning the Haskell Invitational by almost four impressive lengths. I thought Paynter could then, pardon the expression, take the reins from Bodemeister. He was being pointed towards the Travers at Saratoga, and with a win there, he could have joined I’ll Have Another amongst the top in the division.

Nope, that didn’t work out either as Paynter spiked a fever (probably the same one Bodemeister got hit with) after his Haskell win. In fact, he was so sick not only did he remain at Monmouth Park (instead of shipping back home to California) he was sent to the Mid Atlantic Equine Medical Center inNew Jersey for observation. Thank goodness, he was released from the clinic last Friday and was then vanned to Belmont Park. He was officially declared out of the Travers this past week.

Now add Went the Day Well (chipped bone in his ankle), Mark Valeski (chipped bone in his knee), Secret Circle (sesmaoid injury), Take Charge Indy (chipped ankle bone), Algorithms (popped a splint), Gemologist (bruised foot, but back in training) and Creative Cause (needed a prolonged vacation) and perhaps you can see my point.

So who is left to take over? Dullahan? Maybe, but he is heading towards a career on the turf and, generally speaking, turf running three year olds don’t get the attention they sometimes should. Trinniberg? No…he is a sprinter, a good one mind you, but he won’t be able to overtake the division running in just sprint races. Hansen? Maybe but he’ll need to stop beating up on inferior competition.

Some years ago the late, great trainer Charlie Whittingham said “Racehorse are like strawberries…they go bad real fast.” I know I’ve used his expression several times before over the past several months, but no truer words have ever been spoken when describing racehorses.

Charlie Whittingham…The Bald Eagle.

When I take Mr. Whittingham’s comment and combine it with what’s happened to the male three year old division over the past two years, it seems to me watching the sport of Horse Racing is like walking thru one big strawberry field. Perhaps one of these days we will find some concrete to walk on. Although we didn’t last year, and certainly haven’t this year, I’m not giving up hope….yet.

Thanks for reading

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