Chapel Royal came out of the Hopeful with two silver dollar-sized scrapes on his right knee but was otherwise fine Sunday morning, trainer Todd Pletcher said.
It was the first loss in four starts for Chapel Royal, winner of the Flash (gr. III) and Sanford (gr. II) earlier this summer.
"He kind of scraped his right knee coming out of the gate, but it's superficial," Pletcher said. "He just took the hair off. I watched the head-on replay about 10 times at the start and he just kind of broke outward. It's hard to tell, but the only thing that would make sense is that he hit his knee on there.
"It couldn't have helped, but I don't know if it was the difference in getting beat by four lengths. The thing that was disappointing to me was for the race to be run in 1:23 and change. I would have thought that would have been well within his capability. It makes me believe that he didn't fire his best shot."
Breaking from the outside of seven horses, Chapel Royal ran four wide for all seven furlongs and didn't kick in late after taking a brief lead turning for home.
"I felt like going in the outside post was an advantage for us, and when there were two scratches and we were down to the seven hole, if I could have picked any post that's the one I would have picked," Pletcher said. "After breaking into the side of the gate, and then getting up there and kind of parked four wide it turned out not to be a good post position.
"It looked like he was running pretty easily at that point, and he just kind of emptied out the last part. I suppose he was stretching out to a new distance and he hadn't run in six weeks, those kinds of things. But, the way he trained leading up to it, I was very confident he was going to run well."
Pletcher said he hasn't lost faith in the Montbrook colt, who remains on target for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
"Chapel Royal is still on that trail," he said. "We'll most likely run him in the Champagne next. You've got to forgive these horses. It wasn't a bad race; second in the Hopeful, a grade I. He still finished in front of some awfully nice horses. You can't give up on an effort like that."
Limehouse, Pletcher's other Hopeful runner, came out of the race in good shape, he said. The trainer felt being rushed up near the front in the early stages, rather than his usual stalking style, hurt the colt's chances.
Ward Gets Babies Into Action
It took nearly the entire six-week meet, but trainer John Ward finally got some of his 2-year-olds to the races.
His first one came on Friday, when Stalwart Memory ran sixth of 12 in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden sprint, his race debut. He has Grand Score entered in Monday's third.
Like most everyone on the grounds, Ward was hampered by the wet weather, which dominated the first half of the meet, a carryover of a soggy spring at Belmont Park.
"I was thinking this morning, you take 15 days of mud in the middle of the way we train, and it's like shutting down a nuclear reactor," Ward said Sunday. "It takes about 30 days to get a nuclear reactor up to steam, and that's about where we are.
"All our horses are finally getting into nice, smooth, rhythmic works, and they're really coming to us. That's just a holdover from the Belmont rain and this rain. So, what do we do? We go back to Kentucky into the tail end of two hurricanes."
Sired by Hennessy, Stalwart Memory was hurt by both the post position and a bad break out of the gate, both of which Ward called part of the learning experience.
"I thought the one-hole killed him," Ward said. "He broke a there a little tardy and after that, I thought he ran all right. He just tried to get in the game and that took a lot out of him for the finish. He'll come back and run well at Keeneland."
Ward anticipates a solid showing from Grand Score, a Grand Slam colt purchased for $900,000 by John Oxley out of the Saratoga sales last August. He drew post three in the field of 10 going 6 1/2 furlongs, and will be ridden by Eibar Coa.
"He's about the same, but he's a bigger colt and probably a bit more mature. The colt the other day was a May 26 foal," Ward said. "He'll run pretty strong. He gets to go another eighth of a mile, so Coa's just got to be patient on him. He ought to run a representive race."
Sky Mesa, recovering from a bruised foot suffered running last in the Aug. 23 Travers (gr. I), walked under tack on Sunday "to give him a break," Ward said. The Pulpit colt will gallop Monday and ship with the rest of Ward's string to Kentucky on Tuesday.