05/01/2014 8:20AM

Hoppertunity scratched from Kentucky Derby due to foot issue

Barbara D. Livingston
Hoppertunity has been sent to the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital to have his left front foot examined.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Hoppertunity, runner-up to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby and winner of the Rebel Stakes, was scratched from the Kentucky Derby on Thursday morning because of an issue with his left front foot, trainer Bob Baffert said.

Baffert said he suspects that Hoppertunity merely has a foot bruise, but, for precautionary reasons, he is sending Hoppertunity to the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., for a full evaluation with noted veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage.

Baffert said that if Hoppertunity’s problem is limited to the foot bruise, and the bruise heals quickly, he could be ready to run in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, on May 17 at Pimlico.

“He had to be 100 percent. I don’t feel good about it,” Baffert said. “I’m pretty sure it’s the foot. It needs a couple of days to soak in hot water and Epsom salts. We ran out of time. We have to get him right. He’s not 100 percent this morning. It’s too close to the race, so I pulled the plug.”

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Hoppertunity had his final work for the Derby on Monday, on a morning when heavy rain hit the area and left the track very sloppy. Hoppertunity walked on Tuesday, then jogged on Wednesday, at which time Baffert said he first noticed Hoppertunity was slightly off on the inside quarter of the left front foot. The portion of the shoe covering that area was cut away, or “three-quartered,” after training on Wednesday, Baffert said.

Baffert said when Hoppertunity schooled in the paddock on Wednesday, and returned to the barn for a brief jog, he seemed fine.

But on Thursday morning, Hoppertunity was again slightly off during his pre-training jog at the barn. And even though Baffert said Hoppertunity seemed to be “warming out of it,” Baffert said he did not feel comfortable pressing on. So, Baffert kept Hoppertunity off the track Thursday morning, then announced the scratch.