By Frank Angst and Claire Novak
Trainer Graham Motion said because of a fever, Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) winner Ring Weekend is no longer being considered for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
In a tweet at about 10:35 a.m. EDT April 27, Derby-winning trainer Motion relayed the news.
"Ring Weekend spiked a temp this morning of over 102 & bloodwork confirms an infection," Motiion wrote on Twitter. "Sadly he will not be able to take part in Ky Derby."
The fever was discovered two days after St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds' Ring Weekend completed a six-furlong breeze in 1:12 4/5 April 25 at Fair Hill Training Center.
"I was walking through security at Albany Airport around 8:15 a.m. when I got the call from Graham, and of course my heart dropped. They don't call you at 8:30 a.m. to tell you your horse is doing fine," said West Point Thoroughbreds president Terry Finley. "He just said, 'We have an issue,' and I was in line with everybody behind me, so I said, 'Let me call you back.' It was about 10 minutes before I was able to get him back on the line; I was thinking it was a tendon or some bone issue. So it's good as it can be, considering the news, he already had the bloodwork back and we're okay."
Motion said Saturday that the colt looked super when he jogged a mile at Fair Hill and plans had called for the colt to be shipped to Churchill on April 28. Finley said the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) could be a possibility but Ring Weekend's health will be the first concern.
"We hit him with antibiotics right away and he'll be able to go into the hyperbaric chamber for treatments,' Finley said.
With Ring Weekend out of the Derby, next in line for the field would be Bayern, but he is no longer being considered for the Derby after finishing second in the Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III) April 26. Told that Bayern had moved up to number 20 on the Derby points list, trainer Bob Baffert said there were no plans to run in the Derby.
That puts West Point Thoroughbreds' Commanding Curve next in line. Dallas Stewart has been preparing Commanding Curve, who finished third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), for a Kentucky Derby start. The son of Master Command worked five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 April 26 at Churchill Downs.
After the Saturday work, Stewart was optimistic about making the field.
"A lot's going to go on between now and Monday, I guarantee you, Stewart said. "We'll see. If it's meant to be, it'll happen.''
As for Finley, he had partners at different ends of the spectrum on Sunday.
"I daydreamed about doing the walkover with two horses and being able to be part of providing two groups of partners with that thrill, but what are you going to do in that regard? It's nice to have two, but now since that's not going to happen, at least we still have Commanding Curve," Finley said.
"Our partners, when we get into these big races, seem to appreciate it more than any of us; that's what's so cool about my job, being part of providing those opportunities, so it's a big disappointment. A lot of our people realize the one shot they had to get here with a horse that earned his way in, and that's what makes it a tough feeling."