I'll Have Another's withdrawal from the Belmont Stakes has thrown me for a loop.
It's a strange reaction, to be honest, for a person who's entire connection to horse racing is thanks to a love for the novels of Dick Francis. But I'm really thrown.
I read the headline on cnnsi.com and let out an audible gasp, followed by an "OMG" that was much too loud for the work place.
I read Tim Layden's sombre article that outlined his perception of the impact of the withdrawal on the sport as a whole and I found myself nodding all the way through. It's a melodramatic article, to be sure, but it captured exactly how I myself am feeling at this moment.
Maybe it's because I'll Have Another is considered, at least north of the border, to be a "Canadian" horse. Maybe it's because of the stirring, come-from-behind manner in which I'll Have Another has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Maybe it's because I'll Have Another was a shining star, made even more spectacular by the murky speculation that surrounds his trainer, Doug O'Neill.
I don't know but, somehow, I'll Have Another had converted this particular casual horse racing follower into a passionate fan, even if only for a little while.
I was planning to be in front of my TV for the running of the Belmont Stakes, just to see I'll Have Another going for a place in history. Just to see the live broadcast this time, rather than glorying in the horse's performance after the fact on video from Youtube as I'd done with the first two races of the Triple Crown.
I don't know if the I'll-Have-Another scratch from the Belmont race will be another nail in the coffin of the horse racing industry as a whole, as Layden argues. I haven't followed the sport enough to assess that.
But I do know that the withdrawal of this brave horse from his chance at history has had a surprising impact on me personally. I would never have expected it. I would never have guessed that I would respond this way.
And I don't know how to respond to the trainer's decision. Do I applaud O'Neill for pulling the horse out of this huge race in the belief that he really did it with the best interests of I'll Have Another in mind? Do I worry that O'Neill pulled the horse from the race to avoid the even stricter rules set by the New York authorities or the even greater scrutiny that a Triple Crown winner might endure?
I don't know and I'm not sure I care. I just know that Layden is right: for me at least, the 2012 Belmont Stakes has fallen from the status of a must-see event to just another horse race I can happily ignore.