Updated on 04/19/2014 10:58PM

Constitution to miss Kentucky Derby with shin injury

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Barbara D. Livingston
Constitution (right), ridden by Javier Castellano, beats Wildcat Red in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 29 at Gulfstream Park.

Constitution, the undefeated winner of the Florida Derby, will miss the Kentucky Derby and the rest of the Triple Crown because of a shin fracture, Elliott Walden, president and chief executive of co-owner WinStar Farm, said Wednesday.

Constitution, trained by Todd Pletcher, has won all three of his races at Gulfstream Park. He defeated maidens in his debut Jan. 11, then won a first-level allowance Feb. 22 before his victory in the Florida Derby on March 29.

The Florida Derby win was worth 100 points under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 3 Kentucky Derby, which guaranteed Constitution a spot in the maximum 20-horse field.

His defection allows Uncle Sigh, currently 21st on the points list, to move into the top 20.

According to a press release from WinStar, Constitution has a fracture to the cannon bone of his right front leg. The injury was discovered Monday, the day after Constitution worked a half-mile in 50.60 seconds at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida. He was scheduled to have two more works before the Derby, one at Palm Meadows, then a final work at Churchill Downs.

Pletcher said he noticed something amiss with Constitution on Monday.

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“My routine with all my horses is to jog them down the road, and I noticed he was slightly off,” said Pletcher, who added that Dr. Bill Yarborough took X-rays that revealed the fracture, which Pletcher called a “slight hairline in his shin.”

“Thankfully, it’s nothing very serious, and Constitution will be back 100 percent after a little time,” Pletcher said. “The timing is just a real shame for everyone involved, but the Derby doesn’t define a horse’s career.”

Pletcher and WinStar teamed to win the Derby in 2010 with Super Saver.

“This is one of the biggest disappointments of my career,” Pletcher said. “I really feel Constitution was our biggest chance to win the Kentucky Derby since Super Saver.”

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In a subsequent telephone conversation, Pletcher said he was “bummed about it, but it’s probably a blessing with a young horse to get the time. It might be a blessing in disguise.”

“It’s a minimal injury, we caught it early,” Pletcher said. “He was slightly off, we investigated further, found a bump on his shin, took X-rays, and found a hairline crack. It’s a bummer, but if you look at it philosophically, it might be for the best.”

Constitution will be sent to WinStar in Versailles, Ky., to rehabilitate. According to WinStar’s press release, the hope is for him to return to training in 60 days and race again this year.

“Todd has done a tremendous job with Constitution, and I can’t wait to get him back for two reasons,” Walden said. “Firstly, he has so much to accomplish, and, secondly, he is the most exciting stallion prospect of his generation.”

Pletcher said surgery was “unlikely,” but he expected Constitution would be evaluated by noted equine veterinarian Larry Bramlage “to get a second opinion.”

Constitution is by Tapit out of the Distorted Humor mare Baffled. He is owned by a partnership of WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing, for whom he has earned $649,350. He was purchased as a yearling for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale in August 2012.

Constitution had been ridden in all of his races by Javier Castellano, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning jockey, who will now have to try to find a substitute. As of Wednesday, Pletcher had yet to name a rider for one of his Derby prospects currently in the top 20, We Miss Artie, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

With Uncle Sigh now moving into the top 20 on the points list, the 21st spot is held by Vinceremos, who – like Constitution – is owned by WinStar and Twin Creeks and is trained by Pletcher. Vinceremos, the winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes and second to Ring Weekend in the Tampa Bay Derby, finished last of 14 on Saturday in the Blue Grass Stakes in his first start on a synthetic surface.

Pletcher said he and Walden spoke Wednesday and agreed to leave Vinceremos under consideration for the Derby.

“It’ll come down to the two weeks he has, how he breezes over the Churchill surface,” Pletcher said.

 

There is the strong possibility that more horses could work their way into the race, since top-20 horses like Dance With Fate and Midnight Hawk are not certain to start.

Harry’s Holiday is 22nd on the points list, followed by Commanding Curve.

If Commanding Curve gets into the Derby, his rider will be Shaun Bridgmohan, according to a representative of his ownership group, West Point Thoroughbreds.