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Kentucky Derby field shrinks to 19, wet track forecast

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Bodexpress, shown in practice at Churchill Downs in Louisville on Thursday, has been added to the field for Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
Bodexpress, shown in practice at Churchill Downs in Louisville on Thursday, has been added to the field for Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

May 3 (UPI) -- May 3 (UPI) -- The field for the Saturday's Kentucky Derby shrank to 19 Friday as Gotham Stakes winner Haikal was scratched with a sore foot.

Haikal, a son of Daaher, developed an abscess in his left front hoof and was treated Thursday with icing and Epsom salts baths. The treatment wasn't enough to resolve the issue.

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"We put shoes back on him this morning and jogged him and he was still not 100 percent," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Friday morning on the Churchill Downs barn area. "The horse always comes first. He will head home today ... and live to fight another day."

The colt was bred by his owner, Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Shadwell Farm. After winning the Gotham on March 9, he finished third in the Grade II Wood Memorial April 6, earning enough qualifying points to get into the Run for the Roses.

"It's tough for the whole team, His Highness and everyone involved, especially with being a homebred who was training so well," McLaughlin said.

The departure of Haikal, a 30-1 chance on the morning line, follows the loss earlier in the week of the Derby's original favorite, Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach, who developed a breathing problem that required minor surgery. Omaha Beach was replaced in the Derby field by the only also-eligible, Bodexpress, exhausting the pool of potential runners.

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Game Winner, the 2018 2-year-old champion, became the race favorite when Omaha Beach was scratched. Game Winner is trained by five-time Derby winner Bob Baffert, who also will saddle the second- and third-favorite entries on the morning line, Roadster and Improbable.

Weather forecasts call for the Run for the Roses to be conducted over a wet track for the third straight year. The predictions are not as dire as last year's reality, when more than 3 inches of rain drenched Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Rick Porter, whose Fox Hill Farm owns Omaha Beach, said his colt emerged in good shape from Friday morning's procedure, done at the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. "It couldn't have gone smoother," Porter told The Blood-Horse magazine.

The operation is not uncommon for Thoroughbreds and Omaha Beach is expected to return to training this summer with the Breeders' cup Classic at Santa Anita in November as his year-end target.

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