05/15/2017 11:56AM

Preakness: Royal Mo to have surgery on injured ankle

Barbara D. Livingston
Gary Stevens holds Royal Mo's ankle just after the colt fractured a sesamoid on Sunday at Pimlico.

Royal Mo, who suffered a career-ending sesamoid fracture to his right front ankle Sunday at Pimlico Race Course during what was to be his last drill for the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, was scheduled to undergo surgery Monday to fuse the joint, trainer John Shirreffs said.

Royal Mo was transferred Sunday to the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, where Shirreffs said Dr. Dean Richardson was to perform the surgery. Richardson was the surgeon who operated on Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, after he suffered a catastrophic injury to a hind leg in that year’s Preakness.

The injury to Royal Mo is far less severe. According to Shirreffs, Richardson advised him that Royal Mo’s long-term health would be best suited by having an ankle fusion surgery.

“He did X-rays and more diagnostics and said the ankle fusion – where they put a plate that runs from the cannon bone to the long pastern – would be best,” Shirreffs said Monday. “Dr. Richardson said the main concern if there was no surgery would be a weakened joint and said this was the best way.”

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According to Shirreffs, barring any complications, Royal Mo likely will remain at New Bolton for another week before going to Kentucky, perhaps to WinStar Farm.

“They have a great rehab facility,” Shirreffs said.

Royal Mo fractured the inside sesamoid bone in his right front ankle when working under jockey Gary Stevens.

“The one positive side is there wasn’t any other damage to that leg,” Shirreffs said Sunday. “He doesn’t have a condylar or any other ligaments that were injured, just the right sesamoid.”

Dr. Dan Dreyfuss of the Maryland Veterinary Group, who attended to Royal Mo at Pimlico, said: “This is absolutely a career-ending injury. He is done as a racehorse. If there are no complications, from a life standpoint, he should be okay.”

“He won’t run again, but he’ll make a good daddy,” Stevens said.

Stevens was working Royal Mo five furlongs in company when the incident happened near the quarter pole on an off track.

“Luckily, I had a stranglehold on him,” Stevens said. “He was just rattling off 12s. He was going to go in a minute. I was thinking about how much I was going to let him gallop out. And then I heard a loud pop. I was hoping he had just overreached, but that wasn’t it.

“He was relishing the track. The track had a good bottom. The track had nothing to do with it. He was on cruise control.”

Stevens said Royal Mo had wraps on his ankles and that those bandages, affixed by the groom, helped prevent further damage.

Stevens immediately hopped off Royal Mo and helped support the injured leg until first Shirreffs and then Dreyfuss arrived.

“Gary Stevens was holding up the leg, and Mr. Shirreffs was there helping as well,” Dreyfuss said. “The leg did not spend much time on the ground after they got him pulled up, which is really important.”

Dreyfuss said he tranquilized Royal Mo and then affixed a Kimzey splint to the injured limb to provide support.

“He tolerated that incredibly well – he’s a first-class patient,” Dreyfuss said. “We were able to walk him onto the horse ambulance, brought him back to the stakes barn, took radiographs through the Kimzey, and at that point saw the comminuted fracture.”

There are two sesamoid bones in each ankle. Dreyfuss said the other sesamoid in the injured ankle was “intact and in its normal anatomic position, which generally means that the soft tissue around it were not severely damaged.”

Royal Mo, 3, most recently finished third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. He was entered in the Kentucky Derby but was ranked 21st on points and earnings, was put on the also-eligible list, and didn’t draw into the field.

On Tuesday, Royal Mo and Always Dreaming, the Kentucky Derby winner, were flown to Baltimore.

Royal Mo, a large, gorgeous colt by Uncle Mo, was purchased as a yearling by owners Jerry and Ann Moss for $300,000. He raced six times, winning twice, including the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita in February. He was ninth in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn and third in the Santa Anita Derby in his other stakes tries. He earned $267,200.

– additional reporting by David Grening