03/31/2016 9:09AM

Heel bruise delays Runhappy's 4-year-old debut

Shigeki Kikkawa
Runhappy wins the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in December to cap his Eclipse Award-winning 2015 campaign.

Runhappy, the Eclipse Award-winning sprinter of 2015, will have his 4-year-old debut delayed after being diagnosed with a heel bruise that forced trainer Laura Wohlers to stop on the colt’s training for several days.

Wohlers said Thursday from the Thoroughbred Center training facility in Lexington, Ky., that Runhappy sustained the injury to his right hind hoof shortly after he resumed galloping following a winter rest.

“It’s not serious, but obviously we needed to back off him a little bit,” said Wohlers, who trains Runhappy for her brother-in-law, Jim “Mattress Mac” McIngvale of Gallery Racing.

Runhappy was being pointed to the Grade 2, $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes on the May 7 Kentucky Derby card, with the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile on the June 11 Belmont Stakes card penciled in as his next likely start. However, those plans are being revised due to this development.

“We’ll miss Derby Day, but we still want to make the Met Mile, with or without a prep race,” said Wohlers. The $150,000 Maryland Sprint, a six-furlong race on the May 21 Preakness card at Pimlico, would be the preferred comeback race, she added.

Wohlers said the injury was detected when Runhappy “was shifting his feet back and forth a little” when walking the shed row. “We sent him for X-rays at Rood and Riddle, thinking it might’ve been an abscess, but it’s just a minor bruise. We’re going to be very protective of him.”

Wohlers said the colt has been fitted with a protective bar shoe on the right hind foot. She said Runhappy returned to training Thursday for an easy jog after missing “four or five days” and that he would continue a light training regimen until further notice.

Runhappy was the subject of one of the biggest stories of the 2015 racing season. The Super Saver colt incurred his only career defeat in January before reeling off six straight wins, ending with the King’s Bishop, Phoenix, Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and Malibu. He was voted the Eclipse Award for top sprinter while also being named a finalist for Horse of the Year and top 3-year-old male.

His trainer for all but the last one of those victories was Maria Borell, but McIngvale fired Borell after the Breeders’ Cup in what quickly became a huge controversy. Borell currently has pending litigation against McIngvale in a Lexington court over what she claims is unpaid commissions and defamation of character.

Runhappy arrived in late February at the Thoroughbred Center after getting some downtime in Texas following his victory in the Dec. 26 Malibu at Santa Anita. He was gradually easing back into training and was supposed to have his first breeze this week before the bruise interrupted that schedule.