Updated on 05/05/2011 12:55PM

Kentucky Derby: Toby's Corner out with injury

Maggie Kimmitt
Toby's Corner, here training last Sunday at Fair Hill, has been injured and is out of the Derby. That opens a spot for Derby Kitten.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The pot-hole filled road to the Triple Crown that derailed so many top 3-year-olds during the last several months claimed another victim Tuesday when Toby's Corner, a top-five choice for Saturday’s 137th Kentucky Derby, was withdrawn from consideration for the race due to an unspecified issue involving his left hind leg, his connections said.

The defection of Toby’s Corner opened a spot in the race for Derby Kitten, who only earned enough graded stakes earnings to be considered for the Derby two weeks ago when he won the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Entries for the Derby, whose field is limited to 20 starters, were to be taken Wednesday morning and post positions drawn later Wednesday afternoon.

A winner of 4 of 6 starts, including an upset of the previously undefeated champion Uncle Mo in the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9, Toby’s Corner was scheduled to van from the Fair Hill training center in Maryland to Churchill Downs on Tuesday. Instead, Toby’s Corner on Monday was vanned to the New Bolton Center, an equine clinic in Kennett Square, Pa., where he underwent a nuclear bone scan after trainer Graham Motion noticed the colt was lame in his left hind leg. Toby’s Corner had worked six furlongs in 1:15 over the Tapeta surface Sunday at Fair Hill.

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

Dr. Dean Richardson, best known for his work with 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, told Motion that the results of the bone scan did not reveal a definitive injury. Toby’s Corner spent Monday night at New Bolton and was re-evaluated Tuesday morning where again there was no definitive diagnosis. Motion said that Toby’s Corner was simply lame – 2 on a scale of 1 to 5. Richardson had to go into surgery on another horse Tuesday morning and planned to do more tests on Toby’s Corner later Tuesday.

“I’m at a bit of a loss; I think Dean is, too,” said Motion, who will still be represented in the Derby by Spiral Sakes winner Animal Kingdom. “He was still off this morning, and obviously we couldn’t get on the van, even though we couldn’t see anything wrong.”

Motion said that he couldn’t have been happier with the way things had gone for Toby’s Corner in the weeks between the Wood Memorial and the Derby.

“I swear he’s done better since he ran than he did coming out of the Gotham and this is something that totally broadsided us,” Motion said. “I don’t ever remember having an issue with him behind before.”

Toby’s Corner is the third straight Wood Memorial winner to be declared from the Kentucky Derby within seven days of the race. In 2009, I Want Revenge was scratched the morning of the Derby with an ankle injury. Last year, Eskendereya was declared six days from the race with what eventually was a career-ending leg injury. In 2002, Wood winner Buddha was scratched out of the Derby the day before the race.

“I feel very bad for the connections,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who won last year’s Derby with Super Saver after having to declare Eskendereya. “Tough game. You get reminded all the time. The good news is it doesn’t sound career-threatening or anything like that. It’s another one of the reasons why this is so hard to win. It’s all about timing.”

Toby’s Corner became one in a laundry list of 3-year-olds to miss the Derby this year due to injury or infirmity. That list includes Premier Pegasus, Jaycito, To Honor and Serve, The Factor, Arthur’s Tale, Boys At Tosconova, Rogue Romance, and Gourmet Dinner.

“It’s brutal,” Motion said before he boarded a flight to Kentucky. “You hate to be the guy that has to deal with these issues Derby week. I feel bad for the Cotters. Luckily, they’re horse people and they’re completely understanding.”

Motion was referring to owner/breeder Dianne Cotter and her husband Julian who were driving from Florida to Kentucky for the race. Dianne Cotter said she and her family were still coming to the Derby.

“It certainly won’t be what it could have been,” Dianne Cotter said. “Toby had a really good chance. Things happen. Hopefully, it’s nothing horribly bad and hopefully down the road there’ll be another race and we’ll be all together again and have Toby to root for.”

While the connections of Toby’s Corner were certainly downtrodden, the connections of Derby Kitten were naturally elated that their horse got into the Derby field. Derby Kitten is trained by Mike Maker, who also has Twinspired in the race. Derby Kitten is owned by his breeder, Ken Ramsey, a native Kentuckian who has long dreamed of winning the Derby. His only other previous starters were Ten Cents a Shine, who finished eighth in 2003, and Dean’s Kitten, who finished 14th last year.

“I’m certainly glad to get in the Derby,” Ramsey said. “I’m 75 years old. It’s on my bucket list, and I figure I got maybe only another 20 to 25 Derbies in front of me.”

Ramsey on Tuesday said that Javier Castellano will ride Derby Kitten in the Kentucky Derby.

While Toby’s Corner didn’t make it to Churchill Downs on Tuesday, Master of Hounds did. Master of Hounds, the Irish raider who finished second in the UAE Derby in Dubai in his only start this year, arrived at Churchill Downs at 9:45 Tuesday morning, following a flight from Ireland. His van pulled into the stable area and was immediately taken to the quarantine barn, where Master of Hounds will reside during his stay here.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien did not travel with the colt.

On the track, Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch worked three furlongs in 38.60 seconds over a sloppy main track in company with Supreme Ruler. Jon Court was aboard for the move. Archarcharch also worked last Friday for trainer Jinks Fires.

By contrast, Pletcher elected to keep Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty in the barn, two days after they worked in company. Pletcher explained that neither had a walk day since they arrived and he felt Tuesday’s cold and wet conditions were ripe time to give his horses a day off.

– additional reporting by Byron King and Jay Privman