Morning-line favorite I Want Revenge was scratched for the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) on Saturday morning after an undiagnosed problem was detected in the left front ankle of the Jeff Mullins-trained colt.
Dr. Foster Northrop, the attending veterinarian, x-rayed and ultra-sounded the ankle without determining a cause for the inflammation that he said was defused in the ankle above and below the sesamoid.
“On the digital X-rays I’m not seeing any bone lesion at all. It X-rays really pristine, so I do think more soft tissue at this point. Ultrasound, which is basically an X-ray on soft tissue, I’m not seeing a lesion either. So further diagnostics will be done,” Northrop said. “It’s a high-risk area for being injured and we need to be sure there’s not an abnormality with further diagnostics.”
Mullins detected the problem shortly after arriving at Barn 24 on the Churchill Downs backstretch, finding heat in the ankle after removing the Wood Memorial (Grade I) winner’s bandages, washing his legs and giving them a routine check.
“We detected a little pressure and a touch of heat in the left front ankle. We jogged him up and down the asphalt to check for soundness and he actually jogged pretty well. We flexed the ankle and he gave to the flexing of the ankle,” Mullins said. “By that time, Dr. Foster (Northrop) showed up. He jogged him again and he jogged fairly good. Dr. Foster flexed the ankle and he gave to the flexion again.”
Dr. Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association for Equine Practitioners, also examined I Want Revenge.
“After Jeff and Dr. Northrop looked at him, I came by to look at him a third time, and he didn’t jog that bad, but the inflammation was there in his ankle. Unfortunately, this close to the Derby, there’s not a way to gauge how important that is yet. So we have to err on the side of caution, and I’d like to commend the owners and Jeff for doing what’s right for the horse until we know what’s going on.”
The decision to scratch I Want Revenge, however disheartening, came easily for breeder and majority owner David Lanzman.
“I can’t look back at what might have been. It’s really not going to do me any good. I think I’ve hired the best people in the world to give me the decisions as to what they think we should do,” Lanzman said. “When the words came out that running could hurt the horse, I looked at those doctors and I said: ‘Then this is no debate. What are we talking about? We’ll fight another day.’ ”
Mullins said he had been completely satisfied with I Want Revenge’s preparation for the Run for the Roses while raising the possibility that the colt might have wrenched his ankle while training on a wet track Friday morning.
“To me, in my whole career, I’ve never handled a horse of this caliber before and I’m just not going to take a chance on hurting him.” Mullins said. “I’ve been in this business kind of all my life. Most of the things I’ve learned in this business I learned by hard knocks in more ways than one. Your biggest dream is to get here, but the biggest nightmare is to get to race day and have to scratch. Right now I don’t think it’s sunk in that much, but I’m pretty disappointed.”
I Want Revenge, whom Mullins said was unlikely to run in the Preakness Stakes (Grade I) in two weeks, is the first morning-line favorite to be scratched on the morning of the Kentucky Derby.
“Really, I’m at a loss of words. I’m just glad the horse is OK. It could have been a lot worse. Something could have happened on the track. I’m just glad it happened in the stall, and I believe everyone did the right thing by the horse,” 19-year-old jockey Joe Talamo said. “He’s the one who got us here, so you have to do the right thing by him.”
KENTUCKY DERBY ADJUSTED PURSE
Purse: $2,177,200 (if 19 horses start)