An injured left front foot will keep Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) runner-up Hoppertunity from competing in this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Trainer Bob Baffert announced May 1 at about 9 a.m. EDT at Churchill Downs that the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) winner and 6-1 second choice on the Derby morning line would be scratched. Baffert said he believes Hoppertunity has a bruised foot but he wants to make 100% sure that is the only issue.
"We're pretty sure it's the foot but we just want to make sure that it's nothing else, so we can continue on with him for the Preakness (gr. I)," Baffert said. "The timing is obviously horrible because we don't have enough time to work on the foot."
"Yesterday when he came out, he took a couple of steps that looked like something was bothering him," Baffert said. "So we took a hoof tester and we saw his inside quarter was sore. We cut part of the shoe off. This was after he trained. I schooled him in the afternoon and after that we had the vet look at him. We jogged him up and down the pavement and he was fine. I jog all my horses in the morning. When we brought him out this morning he was still a little bit off on that left front foot. He was warming up on it but I knew that if he was still like that tomorrow..."
Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman's Hoppertunity was to be shipped later in the day to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington where he will receive a precautionary full examination from Dr. Larry Bramlage. Baffert said if Hoppertunity only has a bruised foot, he should be able to make the Preakness May 17 at Pimlico Race Course.
"This is part of the business you don't like, but they're athletes and these things happen," Pegram said. "This happens a lot, but this just happened in the Kentucky Derby. You don't get that many shots. That's the reason you never apologize when you win.
"I'm just lucky to have partners like Paul and Karl who are gentlemen and take it in stride. I can tell you we may have a happy face but we're dying inside."
"(Bramlage) checked him out and everything else looked good," Baffert said. "He warms out of it but we felt more comfortable withdrawing him, send him up and get him scanned (tonight) to make sure what we have."
Baffert said the Kentucky-bred son of Any Given Saturday will be examined tonight and results will be available May 2.
Hoppertunity worked four furlongs in :48 April 28 at Churchill Downs. Baffert said it's possible that the off track contributed to the foot issue.
"We were sort of forced to work on a wet track and it's tough because these can come up and bite you," he said. "But we still have Chitu and he's the one that threw the shoe and his feet are fine. The horse (Hoppertunity) is OK, he was just not 100% this morning. It's too close to the race so I pulled the plug.
"It hasn't really set in yet," said the trainer of three Derby winners. "Now we have to get him right. I'm disappointed for the owners. They're all here and were looking forward to a big race."
The scratch brings the Kentucky Derby's recently added also-eligible list into play for the first time. But, as of 9:45 a.m. Thursday morning, trainer Wesley Ward had not decided if also-eligible Pablo Del Monte would run. Ward, a co-owner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) third-place finisher, said he will speak with fellow owners Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor and make a decision.
Ward, reached in Florida, said he had concerns about starting the horse from post 20 but said it would be a dream to start the son of Giant's Causeway . Jockey Jeffrey Sanchez would have the mount if Pablo Del Monte draws in.
Hoppertunity was the 6-1 second choice on the morning line for the Derby. Churchill Downs quickly put out a new odds board with oddsmaker Mike Battaglia making TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) winner Wicked Strong the 6-1 second choice. Arkansas Derby (gr. I) winner Danza, and Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) winner Intense Holiday, both trained by Todd Pletcher, are the co-third choices at 8-1. Pablo Del Monte is at 50-1.
Evan Hammonds and Claire Novak contributed to this story.