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Hoppertunity scratched from Derby with foot problem
Grade 2 hero Hoppertunity was withdrawn from the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby with a foot problem on Thursday.
The Bob Baffert-trained son of Any Given Saturday jogged Wednesday morning, returning to the track after working a half-mile in :48 during Monday's rain storm.
Baffert said that he and his staff first noticed what is through to be a minor problem, a bruise, Wednesday but that Hoppertunity appeared to be fine after loosening up.
When the colt had the same problem Thursday morning, Baffert said he and owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman decided to pull him from the Derby field and send him to the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., for a thorough examination by Dr. Larry Bramlage.
"We felt more comfortable withdrawing him and we're going to send him to get scanned," Baffert said. "It's pretty sure that it's the foot, but we want to make sure that it's nothing else so we can continue on with him to the Preakness.
"Unfortunately, the timing is horrible because we don't have enough time to work on the foot," he added. "It's tough, this close to the Derby. The horse is fine."
Baffert said the colt would be sent to the hospital on Thursday afternoon and he expects a report by Friday afternoon.
"It's a head-scratcher. Dr. Bramlage and my vet looked at it and we think it's the foot, but we want to rule out anything else. He warms out of it, but I didn't feel comfortable the way he is. So he's out."
Baffert said that the colt might have suffered the injury when he breezed on wet track Monday morning.
"I explained to Dr. Bramlage the situation and he agreed that if I didn't feel good about it why take a chance, and let's rule out everything else but the foot," Baffert said.
Hoppertunity took a while to develop as a 2-year-old, but emerged during the winter into a leading contender in the Derby.
"It's disappointing because I think he was very live," Baffert remarked. "He likes this track. He trained well over it. The distance is his distance. I really felt he was going to be really live. I feel bad for the owners; they came here with Lookin at Lucky and had bad luck with the one-hole and now this."
Hoppertunity drew post 11 in Wednesday's Derby draw and was installed as the 6-1 second choice on the morning-line behind 5-2 favorite California Chrome. The duo met up last out in the Santa Anita Derby, with California Chrome easily holding Hoppertunity to second by 5 1/4 lengths.
With Hoppertunity out, Pablo del Monte will now draw into the field from the also-eligible list, though his starting on Saturday is not yet guaranteed. The Giant's Causeway colt is trained by co-owner Wesley Ward and will take up the 20 post in the field under Jeffrey Sanchez at 50-1 on the morning-line. Ward will speak with the other owners to see if they wish to go in the Derby or not.
Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia adjusted his morning-line following Hoppertunity's scratch, making TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial victor Wicked Strong the new second pick at 6-1. The bay son of Hard Spun actually drew the 20 post on Wednesday, but will break from post 19.
Baffert's remaining Derby contender, Chitu, had a routine gallop of 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Dana Barnes on Thursday.