10/25/2002 12:00AM

Sky Mesa out of Juvenile


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Sky Mesa, who was the morning-line favorite for Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was scratched from the race Friday morning because of swelling in his right front ankle.

"This morning in his stall he was a little light on the right front. We took the bandages off, and he had filling on the inside and outside of the right front ankle about halfway up the cannon bone," trainer John Ward said. "X-rays show that it wasn't any fractured cannon bone or anything at this point. We've got guarded optimism it's only the result of a sprain."

Ward said Sky Mesa would most likely ship back to his Keeneland barn on Monday and be re-examined by Dr. Larry Bramlage at his Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington, Ky. Bramlage, one of the on-call veterinarians for the Breeders' Cup, said "there was some swelling just above the ankle joint and he was sore." Bramlage added that he would do a digital bone scan of the colt's right front leg early next week.

Ward said Sky Mesa would get the remainder of the year off, but he remained hopeful the horse would resume training early enough next year to be pointed to the Kentucky Derby.

"We don't have to teach him to run, we don't have to qualify him, we don't have to do a lot of things that you got do for a horse to get to the Derby," said Ward, who won the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos. "Essentially what we've got to do is develop a plan that gets him there as a fresh horse and he gets there, hopefully, without any major problems."

Sky Mesa, a son of Pulpit, won his first three starts, including the Grade 1 Hopeful and Grade 2 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity. He was a leading contender for an Eclipse Award, something that is usually determined in the Breeders' Cup.

"You got to look at this thing in two different lights," said Ward, who trains Sky Mesa for John Oxley. "This race has turned into whoever wins is the champion. On the other hand, in the eyes of the people who contro1l the economics of the business - which is what this is all about, this horse hasn't cheapened himself whatsoever."

The scratch, which reduced the field to 13, forced the cancellation of the Head2Head bet with Vindication.