Jake the Flake, Jack Murphy and Pam Slaughter's 6-year-old gelding set to go in Sunday's $150,000-added River City Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, suffered a career-threatening torn tendon.
Prepared for a bid at his first graded stakes victory, trainer Hal Wiggins is instead confronted by the prospect that the Kentucky-bred son of Gold Spring's racing career may be over.
The injury, at the very least, eliminated Jake the Flake, the winner of the Kentucky Cup Mile, from consideration for the River City. Wiggins said it appears to be serious enough to end his racing days.
"This morning we took the bandages off an he had kind of a hot tendon," said Wiggins. "We ultrasounded that thing and he's torn it pretty good. The vet said he'd be surprised if he ever comes back."
Wiggins is unsure when the injury occurred, although he thinks Jake the Flake most likely damaged his tendon in a work over the Churchill Downs turf course last Thursday. He had been back to the track three times since that work, but Wiggins said there had been no evidence of a possible problem until Friday morning.
Jake the Flake had been in Wiggins' stable for more than two years. The late-running veteran was enjoying the finest year of his career with three wins, a pair of seconds and three third-place finishes in 10 . He earned $249,735.
His two most recent outings had been victories – the $200,000 Kentucky Cup Mile at Kentucky Downs and a strong allowance win at Keeneland in which he defeated 2001 River City winner Dr. Kashnikow and Louisville Handicap (gr. III) winner Pisces. Both of those rivals are among the top choices for Sunday's renewal of the River City.
Wiggins said Jake the Flake would get plenty of rest and time to heal before anyone thinks about whether he will ever return to racing.
"We'll probably turn him out for a long period of time and then just look at it and see what it looks like," he said. "I tell everybody when you come to the barn in the morning, you don't know what you're going to find. You hope everything will be alright and you hope it's not serious. It's one of those things and it's part of the business. But you sure don't like it."
Jake the Flake has a career record of 10-6-8 in 32 races. He earned $492,929 while under the care of Wiggins and Jesse "Sonny" Wigginton, who trained him earlier in his career.