By Evan Hammonds and Ron Mitchell
Eskendereya, the anticipated favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), will not run in the May 1 classic due to a slight filling in his left front leg.
Trainer Todd Pletcher made the announcement about Zayat Stables’ 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway at a press conference at 9:30 a.m. April 25.
“Yesterday morning I noticed a little bit of filling in his left front leg,” Pletcher said. “We looked at and worked on it overnight but didn’t see any improvement. He’s too special of a horse to take any chances.
“Basically his left leg is filled from his ankle up to the knee,” he said. “We need to get some of that edema out of there before we can do any diagnostics. He’s not uncomfortable. I got him out early this morning on the asphalt and jogged him, and for me, he was slightly off.
“I spoke with Mr. (Ahmed) Zayat and we decided to stop here. The horse is not lame. The horse is slightly off. I haven’t felt like his last couple of gallops have been up to what we normally see. I was hoping that maybe it was attributed to the sloppy track but we’re going to do some more diagnostics later in the week when some of the swelling and filling goes down in his leg. Hopefully it’s nothing that would be career ending, but at this point it’s too premature for me to speculate.”
Eskendereya galloped over a sloppy main track at Churchill Downs April 24, but did not put in a work. Five of Pletcher's Derby contenders did participate in recorded workouts.
Earlier in the morning it was discovered that Eskendereya would not take to the track for his scheduled workout. Soon after that, Churchill Downs officials hastily put together the press conference on the backstretch.
Eskendereya was coming into the Derby off impressive victories in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and Wood Memorial (gr. I). The colt has won four of six starts with one second and earnings of $725,700. Zayat purchased the colt for $250,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale.
“I don’t know if it (Eskendereya’s declaration) changes Interactif’s status,” Pletcher said. “I was hoping to work him this morning but felt the track was still drying out. Even though it may have looked better from a distance it wasn’t as good as it was yesterday. He’ll breeze tomorrow.
“I’d say the biggest impact will potentially be with the filly,” he said. “Obviously that opens up (jockey) John Velazquez which was one of our biggest concerns. Mr. (John) Greathouse is going to come over tomorrow and we’re going to look at it. It swings the pendulum toward her running, but that’s without any confirmation from Mr. Greathouse.”
Devil May Care, owned by the Greathouse family’s Glencrest Farm, became a consideration for the Derby last week. The daughter of Malibu Moon may be entered in both the Derby and the April 30 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). She won the nine-furlong Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park March 20 in her last start.
This is the second year in a row that the probable Derby favorite has been scratched prior to the race. Last year, morning line favorite I Want Revenge was scratched on the morning of the race.