It was a good news, bad news kind of day for trainer Nick Zito at Churchill Downs Friday morning. Anak Nakal, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill last November, zipped a half-mile in :46.60 in preparation for the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). But his workmate, Aquarian, who covered the same distance in :48, suffered what appeared to be a condylar fracture in his right foreleg and was vanned off the track in an equine ambulance following his breeze. The colt was sent to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington.
A 3-year-old son of Fusaichi Pegasus , Aquarian has captured one of his seven career races. He is owned by Tracy Farmer, who purchased him as a weanling for $685,000 at the 2005 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Exercise rider Heather Stark was aboard the colt for his work.
“Heather felt something when he went past the clockers’ stand so she pulled him up right away,” Zito said. “She said he just took a bad step. Hopefully, he’ll be all right. It’s part of the business, and as long as it’s not life-threatening, he’ll be back. Aquarian is kind of a distance horse. He was going to run Derby Day in an allowance race. He probably needs time, so hopefully he’ll be fine and that will be it.”
According to veterinarian Rick Fischer, who examined Aquarian, “the injury is not life-threatening, at this point, but time is of the essence in these situations. It wasn’t a compound fracture,” he said. “There was no blood, so it’s intact, but it may have a little displacement. They’ll get that put back together, and he’ll probably get two or three bone screws in it.”
Aquarian was brought back to Zito’s barn briefly, but remained in the ambulance.
“I’ve got to hand it to these guys; they were right on the ball,” Fischer said of the ambulance crew. “They got the horse right on the ambulance, and they were gone. It couldn’t have been any better.”
Zito said Dr. Larry Bramlage would perform the surgery on Aquarian. to repair his injured leg.
Anak Nakal’s move on a warm, sunny morning was the second-fastest among the 26 horses that worked that distance at Churchill Friday. Only Farmer's 7-year-old grade I winner Commentator, also from Zito’s barn, was faster with a clocking of :46.40. Exercise rider Megan Smillie was aboard Anak Nakal.
“That was a good work,” Zito said. “I was surprised he worked that fast, but he just likes Churchill Downs. He won the Kentucky Jockey Club here, and that’s probably why he worked so good. It’s always a good sign when they like the track.”
In his most recent race, Anak Nakal finished fifth, beaten 3 ½ lengths, in the April 8 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I). According to Zito, the son of Victory Gallop has been a little behind his peers in his development.
“A lot of times with 3-year-olds, they just catch up,” Zito said. “When I say catch up, I mean they’ve got to catch up to the other horses. Some go forward, some stay in the middle, and some go backwards. He’s one that’s probably just going to catch up right now. He didn’t have the greatest of winters, but his Wood wasn’t bad. There were signs of life. It was sort of like he ran here last fall. He’s been training well, as you know, and now we’ll just see what happens.”
Zito added that the condition of track in the Wood didn’t help Anak Nakal.
“The track was a heavy, drying out track,” the trainer said. “They didn’t run the day before; the weather was bad. They caught a bad break. I guess when the sun came out, for whatever reason, it (the track) didn’t stay quite as fast. It dried out quick, and it became heavy.”