Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s Smarty Jones Stakes winner Junebugred has a bone chip in his ankle and will need arthroscopic surgery to have it removed, taking him off the Triple Crown trail but leaving him with a good prognosis to resume his career later this year.
“It’s tiny, little, and brand new but it’s going to knock him out for about 90 days,” said trainer Steve Hobby the morning of Feb. 29, one day after discovering considerable filling in the colt’s left front ankle. “The good news is there’s no damage to the joint or anything like that, so the prognosis is good.”
Junebugred, a son of Corinthian out of the Dixieland Band mare Dixie Melody, exits a division of the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 20 where he finished in a tie for sixth behind Castaway. He won the Smarty Jones in January in what was his third career start. Hobby had been at a loss to explain the disappointment, but says yesterday’s developments made it clear.
“I’m surprised it took a week to show up,” he said. “We have been looking and looking at that horse every day with a microscope, but it picked yesterday to finally crop up. It was kind of like ‘well, there you go.’”
The colt, bred by Gainesway Thoroughbreds, will ship March 1 to Rood & Riddle Equine Center near Lexington for the surgery and recover at Diamond A Farm.
“It’s disappointing, but maybe we’ll end up counting our blessings,” said Hobby. “He’s a small horse, and who knows what rushing and forcing him into something like (the Triple Crown) might do. In this case, we will let him get better and find the best spots for him when we get him back.”