03/25/2009 12:00AM

Beethoven out of Florida Derby

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.-Beethoven will not start as planned in Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park because of a slight tendon injury, trainer John Ward said Wednesday.

"When I went back to the barn on Tuesday evening I noticed something wasn't quite perfect with Beethoven," Ward said. "He has a slight spot on his tendon. It's very minimal but I'm glad we caught it at a stage where it will be a blip on the screen rather than something that could ultimately have kept him out for the whole year. With these things it's always best to be on the conservative side. We'll take him back to Kentucky and reevaluate the situation in a couple of weeks, and I'm confident he'll be back in the game by early summer."

Beethoven was considered one of the top contenders for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby, coming off a third-place finish behind Quality Road and Theregoesjojo in the one-mile Fountain of Youth four weeks earlier. Beethoven won Churchill Downs's premier 2-year-old race, the Kentucky Jockey Club, in his 2008 finale.

Beethoven, a son of Sky Mesa, is owned by Ward's principal client John Oxley. Ward and Oxley combined to win the 2001 Florida Derby and 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos.