John Oxley's multiple graded stakes winner Strong Contender, scratched as the second choice the morning of Saturday's Donn Handicap (gr. I), has possibly suffered a career-ending injury, according to trainer John Ward.
Strong Contender, the 2006 Dwyer (gr. II) and Super Derby (gr. II) winner, was reported by barn staff to Ward Friday evening as sore in his stall and uncomfortable. An examination Saturday morning revealed a significant tendon tear, which Ward said he believes Strong Contender may have initially suffered in the Hal's Hope (gr. III) Jan. 6, in which he finished fifth, and further aggravated in a gate work this week.
A 4-year-old chestnut son of Maria's Mon out of the Dynaformer mare Kopenhagen, Strong Contender had been scheduled to appear in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) after his start in the Donn. Ward had frequent trouble stringing starts together with the $800,000 Keeneland (April) '05 sale purchase.
After thirds in the Blue Grass (gr. I) and Peter Pan (gr. II), Strong Contender earned black-type at Belmont in the Dwyer with a runaway victory over Doc Cheney and Da Stoops. Third to Bluegrass Cat and Praying for Cash in the Haskell (gr. I), Strong Contender annexed the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in a memorable stretch duel with Lawyer Ron. He owns a 4-0-3 record in eight starts with earnings of $618,000.
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