In his final timed workout in preparation for the Preakness Stakes (G1), Jerry and Ann Moss' Uncle Mo colt was going well during his drill, as he moved alongside a workmate in the turn, but Stevens heard a loud "pop" later in the bend.
"Initially I thought he just overreached and hit himself, but then there was a loud pop," Stevens said. "Unfortunately, when he hit the ground next, I knew he didn't hit himself. He was just towing me around there, having a brilliant work. Then I heard it coming out of the turn. He looked after me and I looked after him."
After Stevens pulled Royal Mo up, the Hall of Fame rider who flew in from Southern California to work the colt jumped off his mount just inside the three-sixteenths pole on the Pimlico main track. Stevens immediately went down to hold Royal Mo's right-front leg off the ground as trainer John Shirreffs rushed down from the grandstand.
Royal Mo was equipped with bandages and a splint on the limb before he was loaded onto an equine ambulance by Shirreffs and taken back to the stakes barn at Pimlico.
"He was in distress, but they had a good bandage on him and probably saved him," Stevens said.
After tests and evaluation in his stall at the stakes barn, Royal Mo was gently coaxed onto a trailer by Shirreffs. The colt is being transported to New Bolton Center, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's facility in Kennett Square, Penn.
Shirreffs said X-rays at the barn showed a "fracture of the inside right-front sesamoid."
"There isn't any other damage, so that's a very good thing for him, for his life after racing," the trainer said. "It's very difficult. There were a lot of hopes and dreams with Royal Mo from Mr. and Mrs. Moss and my wife, Dottie. They were all excited to see him run, so they're obviously devastated."
Shirreffs delayed Royal Mo's final Preakness work because of rains and a sloppy track at Pimlico May 13, but Stevens was quick to point out that the track was likely not to blame.
"To be fair, he was loving the racetrack," Stevens said. "He didn't step in a hole. The track was perfect. Let's be clear on that. It wasn't the track condition. As a matter of fact, he was enjoying it. He was enjoying himself and I was pretty ecstatic coming into the quarter pole.
"It was very similar to his last work before the Santa Anita Derby (G1). I was just thinking how far I was going to let him gallop out afterward. That's what was going through my head when it happened. I had no warning whatsoever."
Royal Mo captured the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) earlier in the year and was coming into the Preakness off a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby. He was an also-eligible for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), but didn't draw into the field. He has a 2-2-1 record from six starts, with earnings of $267,200.
Bred by Brandywine Farm in Kentucky, the colt was a $300,000 purchase by his owners at the 2015 Keeneland September sale.