There was a dramatic change in the 2014 Kentucky Derby odds on Thursday morning after trainer Bob Baffert announced that his horse, Hoppertunity, was being pulled from the race due to a hopefully minor foot injury. Hoppertunity had been the number two betting choice at the time of his withdrawal but the veteran trainer said that making the decision was a no brainer.
Baffert spoke to reporters after announcing that Hoppertunity was out of the race. He said that while he’s disappointed that his horse won’t be in the Kentucky Derby making the decision was easy:
“It’s easy to make the call. It was easy. Even if we were running for claiming or allowance, I’d make that call if he’s not 100 percent. They have to be right.”
Asked about how he thought Hoppertunity would have done Baffert conceded:
“I thought he was very live.”
Veteran horseman Art Sherman, trainer of race favorite California Chrome concurred:
“I thought he was the horse to beat.”
Baffert is hoping that Hoppertunity is suffering from a foot bruise though he’s going to get the horse a full medical exam. For the time being at least, he’s stumped:
“It’s a head-scratcher. The inside quarter is bugging him. Yesterday he came out and he warmed out of it. Today I could have sent him to the track and he would have warmed out of it, but I didn’t feel good about it.”
“We want to make sure it’s nothing else so we can continue on with him for the Preakness. Unfortunately, the timing is obviously horrible because we don’t have enough time to work on the foot. It’s tough this close to Derby … but I want him to come out of the stall 100 percent, and he didn’t do that today.”
Baffert is especially sensitive about the well being of his horses after he was investigated by the California Racing Board for a greater than average number of deaths in his stable at Santa Anita. They couldn’t prove any wrongdoing, but they didn’t find any answers either. The board’s equine medical examiner Dr. Rick Arthur concluded:
“The conclusion on a scientific basis would be that there is something different about Baffert, about the Hollywood Park main track and the barn, but we couldn’t find anything. It doesn’t change the fact we don’t have an answer. What it does do is say, ‘There’s something wrong here.’ ”
The Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs race track in Louisville.