Hoppertunity out of Kentucky Derby with foot problem

Graded stakes winner Hoppertunity, the 6-to-1 second choice on the morning line for the  140th Kentucky Derby, will be scratched from the first leg of the Triple Crown because of a problem with his left front foot, trainer Bob Baffert said Thursday.

“Hoppertunity came out with an issue with the foot. We’re going to have Dr. Larry Bramlage (of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital) today look at it,” Baffert said. “We checked him out and knees, ankles are all good. He warms out of it but it’s biting him a little bit. We felt more comfortable withdrawing him. So we’re going to get him scanned.

“We’re pretty sure it’s the foot, but we want to make sure there is nothing else wrong with him so we can continue on with him to the Preakness maybe. The timing obviously is horrible.”

Hoppertunity did not train at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning. Baffert said they first noticed Wednesday morning that the colt was off.

“Yesterday when he came out, but then he warmed out of it,” Baffert said. “Then when I schooled him yesterday he was fine. We jogged him for my vet and he jogged fine. When he came out today he was still a little bit off, (but) the more he walked, the more he came out of it.  But it’s something I didn’t feel comfortable with.”

Hoppertunity won the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 15 in his fourth career start and was second to California Chrome in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

The son of Any Given Saturday was attempting to become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old.

Hoppertunity coming out leaves the door open for Pablo Del Monte, the lone also-eligible horse entered, to get into the Derby field. Trainer Wesley Ward, who is still in Florida,  said Thursday that the decision would be left up to owners Coolmore Stud on whether Pablo Del Monte would start.

“It’s a decision most horsemen in the world would want to have,” Ward said. “Breaking from post 20 is very difficult. But having had this horse born and raised on my ranch, … and to take him all the way to this point, it would be the greatest honor of my life.”

Hoppertunity had his final work for the Kentucky Derby on Monday, breezing four furlongs  in 48 flat over a sloppy track.

“It was probably something like that,” Baffert said when asked if he thought training over the wet track might have caused the foot ailment. “But I mean he worked well; he came out of it well.

“It’s hard on the owners, but at the same time, the horse is fine. He doesn’t have an injury; he’s just not 100 percent on that foot. I wanted him to come out of his stall 100 percent, and he didn’t do that today.”