An injury has forced favorite Premier Pegasus out of the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in Southern California.
The colt, who won the San Felipe (gr. II) last month, was the 8-5 favorite on the morning line in the $1 million prep for next month's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Santa Anita spokesman Mike Willman said owner-trainer-breeder Myung Kwon Cho called the racing office the afternoon of April 7 to say Premier Pegasus was injured and wouldn't run. The track reported the injury as unspecified, but assistant trainer Maria Ayala later said the colt had a hairline fracture in the cannon bone of his left foreleg and would be sidelined for three to four months.
Ayala thought she saw Premier Pegasus stumble during a morning gallop April 7, but he appeared to be walking fine when he returned to the barn.
"Ten minutes later, it's not good," she said. "He was walking bad."
X-rays revealed the injury.
The son of Fusaichi Pegasus won the San Felipe Stakes by a record 7 3/4 lengths, and has four wins in five career races with earnings of $293,400.
Two years ago, the Santa Anita Derby lost early favorite The Pamplemousse on the morning of the race when he was scratched because of a leg injury.
The defection of Premier Pegasus reduced the field for this year's running of the 1 1/8-mile race to 10 horses, including 4-1 second choice Jaycito, second to Premier Pegasus in the San Felipe, and 9-2 third choice Silver Medallion, who won the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III).
The injury was surely a blow to Cho, a 68-year-old South Korea native who has just six horses in his stable. Besides owning and training Premier Pegasus, he also bred the colt and was eagerly anticipating having his first horse in the Kentucky Derby since 1998.
"My heart is no good now," Ayala said, "but Mr. Cho say, 'Relax, Maria. Maybe next year.' "