06/02/2011 1:55PM

Leg injury clouds Carlton House's status for Epsom Derby


The lead-up to the $1.16 million Epsom Derby feels a bit like the days preceding this year’s Kentucky Derby, with the potential race favorite’s health in question. In Kentucky, it was Uncle Mo and his enzymatic issues under the microscope. In England, scrutiny focuses on the left front leg of Carlton House, the derby favorite off his solid last-start win in the Dante Stakes.

Carlton House suffered an apparently minor injury to a joint in the leg during routine training Monday, but he was able to complete an easy four-furlong workout Thursday morning and was among 13 final declarations for the Derby. Still, Carlton House’s participation in Saturday’s Classic won’t be sealed until trainer Michael Stoute observes the colt’s post-workout condition.

Other than health issues, comparisons between Carlton House and Uncle Mo are sparse. Uncle Mo was a 2-year-old champion who ran incredibly fast at age 2, while Carlton House had only a maiden win from two starts in 2010. It was a fast-finishing victory over Epsom Derby runner Seville on May 12 in the Dante at York, a major derby prep, that brought Carlton House into the limelight, his storyline enhanced by the fact that a derby win would be the first for Queen Elizabeth II, whose colors Carlton House, a son of Street Cry, will carry at Epsom. Carlton House also would be bidding to give a second straight derby win to Stoute and jockey Ryan Moore, who teamed up to capture the 2010 edition with Workforce. Stoute has won the race three of the last eight years.

Seville, who finished decently in the Dante, is one of four Derby entrants from trainer Aidan O’Brien, who won back to back derbies in 2001 and 2002 with Galileo and High Chaparral but has since been shut out. Recital rebounded from a modest 2011 debut to capture the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on May 8 at Leopardstown in Ireland, beating stablemate Memphis Tennessee, who races Saturday under O’Brien’s son, Joseph. Treasure Beach was a narrow winner of the May 5 Chester Vase over the decent colt Nathaniel, and is the only derby entrant to have competed over the race’s one and one-half mile distance.

While O’Brien runners must always be accounted for, a dangerous invader may be coming to Epsom from France. Pour Moi finished strongly winning the Prix Greffulhe on May 7 at Saint-Cloud, and trainer Andre Fabre has deemed the Montjeu colt his best chance yet at landing the English Derby.