The likely favorite for the Kentucky Derby is out for the second straight year. It truly is déjà vu with Eskendereya sidelined.
“Basically his left leg is filled from his ankle up to the knee,” trainer Todd Pletcher told BloodHorse.com over the weekend. “We need to get some of that edema out of there before we can do any diagnostics. He’s not uncomfortable. I got him out early this morning (Sunday) on the asphalt and jogged him, and for me, he was slightly off.”
While the son of Giant’s Causeway last several exercise gallops weren’t consistent with his recent form, the trainer blamed that on the sloppy surface at Churchill Downs.
However, Pletcher stressed the colt isn’t lame, but the exact nature of the injury won’t be known until additional diagnostic testing is performed. The horse galloped Saturday, but didn’t put in a recorded workout like five of his other Derby eligible runners.
One Pletcher trainee that didn’t work well was withdrawn Monday when Bill Casner, co-owner of WinStar Farm, announced they weren’t pleased with Rule‘s progress at the Louisville track. Nothing is physically wrong with the son of Roman Ruler and he might run in the Preakness at Pimlico on May 15.
On Tuesday, another Pletcher horse that appeared to work well on muddy, breezing four furlongs in 47 3/5 Monday on the muddy surface, was withdrawn. The reason: Interactif will race on grass in the summer.
Eskendereya was coming into the 136th Derby off impressive victories in Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth and Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial.
Mike Battaglia, oddsmaker at Churchill Downs, had said the colt would be the morning line favorite. Last year, I Want Revenge was withdrawn on race day, the first morning line favorite scratched on the first Saturday in May since the odds program was established in ’49.
I Want Revenge was suffering from a filling in his left front ankle. The diagnosis: inflammed soft tissue. The son of Stephen Got Even, who hasn’t raced since the Wood triumph, resumed training this spring at Aqueduct.
Ironically, I Want Revenge is the grandson of A. P. Indy, second choice in the ’92 Derby who was scratched the morning of the race because of a hoof injury. But he later won the Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic.
With Eskendereya and Rule out, Jackson Bend is in, moving to 20th in graded stakes earnings. The son of hear No Evil was runner-up to Eskendereya in the Fountain of Youth and the Wood.
Pletcher’s horses that remain in the 136th Derby: colts Discreetly Mine, Mission Impazible and Super Saver, plus the filly Devil May Care.
On Monday he confirmed Devil May Care would be entered only in the Derby, not crossed-entered in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks for fillies. The daughter of Malibu Moon remains in the hands of jockey John Velazquez, who was originally set to ride Eskendereya.
Devil May Care, who comes into the race off a 2 1/4-length score victory in Gulfstream’s Bonnie Miss Stakes, will attempt to become the fourth filly to win the Run for the Roses.
Mission Impazible won the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 27, while Super Saver was runner-up to Line of David in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 10.
Pletcher is hoping to end the drought of failing to saddle a Derby winner in nine runnings, going 0-for-24. He shares the record for most starters with Hall of Fame conditioners Nick Zito and D, Wayne Lukas — five.
In ’07, Pletcher’s Circular Quay finished the highest, at sixth, to Street Sense. In ’05, Zito’s favored Bellamy Road ran seventh.
In ’96, Lukas captured his fourth Derby with Grindstone. Zito won the Derby twice with Strike the Gold in ’91 and Go for Gin in ’94.
With the scratch of Eskendereya, the favorite will be Lookin at Lucky, as trainer Bob Baffert seeks his fourth Derby win.