05/02/2009 12:00AM

I Want Revenge scratch 'heartbreaking'

Barbara D. Livingston
From left, trainer Jeff Mullins, jockey Joe Talamo, and owner David Lanzman announce the scratch of morning-line favorite I Want Revenge on Saturday morning.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With devastation written all over their faces, the connections of I Want Revenge announced Saturday morning they had to scratch their horse out of the 135th Kentucky Derby because of soreness in his left front ankle.

Though veterinarians could not offer a definitive diagnosis through X-rays and ultrasounds, they said the horse had inflammation in the left front ankle that would have made it dangerous to run. Veterinarians said further tests such as bone scans and magnetic resonance imaging would most likely be done in the near future to determine the extent of the injury. Dr. Foster Northrup, the first doctor to examine the ankle, called the part of the ankle where the injury is "a high-risk area."

"We're not talking about a lot of filling, we're not talking a lot of heat. This is a minor issue at this point," Northrup said. "But he does flex sore on it, and we can't go forward at this point until we're comfortable knowing what's going on."

The combination of inflammation in the ankle as well as the possibility of a hard, wet racetrack prompted co-owner David Lanzman and trainer Jeff Mullins to scratch the horse around 9 a.m. Saturday. Mullins said he knew something was wrong with I Want Revenge when he took him out to jog early Saturday morning, at which time he consulted with veterinarians Northrup and Dr. Larry Bramlage.

Northrup said that one of every five steps I Want Revenge took was a lame one.

"We could tell he wasn't 100 percent," Mullins said. "Knowing the weather, how well they seal the racetrack and the possibility of how hard the racetrack may be today if rain keeps coming, we felt that in the best interest of the horse we're not going to run."

Lanzman said scratching was a no-brainer. "We'll fight another day," he said.

Michael Iavarone, the co-president of IEAH Stables, which won the Derby last year with Big Brown and who purchased half-interest in I Want Revenge before the Wood, said he was woken up this morning with a phone call telling him the news.

"Basically, you know it happens in the game," Iavarone said. "You could never have imagined it happening the morning of the Derby. Right now everything's too premature. I don't know if this is a one-day thing or a one-year anything. I don't know anything. I only know it's heartbreaking to the connections."

Off his impressive victories in the Gotham and Wood Memorial, I Want Revenge was made the morning-line favorite for the Derby. After Friday's early wagering he was the third choice at 6-1.

"Your biggest dream is to get here, but the biggest nightmare is to get to raceday and have to scratch," Mullins said.

Jockey Joe Talamo, who at age 19 was getting ready to ride his first Kentucky Derby, said he was shocked when he learned of the injury.

"I believe they did the right thing by the horse," he said. "He's the one who got us here, so we have to do the right thing by him."