LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Derby favorite Forte is out of the race.
The horse was out on the Churchill Downs track early on Saturday for a gallop, as veterinarians, trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole watched.
WDRB's Rick Bozich confirmed the scratch. Repole said he is "shocked, sad and devastated" that the state vet scratched Forte because he "seemed off a tick."
Repole said the horse had a bruised foot, but the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission state veterinarian Nick Smith told Pletcher and Repole that after an examination at the barn this morning, he had made the decision to scratch Forte.
Smith would not comment when WDRB's Rick Bozich questioned him at the barn.
The defection of the colt means there will be 18 horses break from the gate for the Run for the Roses.
Forte is the second favorite in the past 5 years to scratch after the morning line odds had been set, but more unusually, is the second horse to be scratched by state racing officials this year.
Owner Mike Repole said he is “shocked, sad and devasted” that the state vet scratched Forte because he “seemed off a tick.” pic.twitter.com/nR3tJujgZG— rickbozich (@rickbozich) May 6, 2023
"I'm sad. I'm devastated. I'm devastated for Todd Pletcher, devastated for Todd Pletcher's barn. I'm devastated about my friends and family back at the hotel, who I get to tell that we had to scratch the Derby favorite. It's almost deja vu all over again," Repole said outside the Pletcher barn at Churchill Downs.
Repole said Forte had been improving every day. "Todd and his staff, Todd is the greatest and best trainer out there, cooperated with the state. Notified them immediately. They checked him out. They did x-rays. Clean. We did what they call a hoof test.... and found a tender spot."
Three different vets said Forte was good to race, according to Repole.
"You try to be as transparent about this sport, as you can. There were rumors out there about the issue. It was a bruise. If this race was on Tuesday, I think he'd be running. If this race was next Saturday, he'd be running, but unfortunately, as I've said before in some of these interviews, you can only be a three-year-old colt on the first Saturday in May one time. And whether you develop a fever or you bruise your foot," Repole said.
"We did everything we can. We did everything within the system. We worked within the system. Total transparency, and honestly, I'm shocked because a bruise can be 24-hours or a bruise can be 72 hours or 96 hours or it could be a week," Repole explained. "The reason why we galloped him today, we probably didn't have to by the way, was because Todd wants to make sure everything is alright. He put a new shoe on him today. Many people would never do that today, but we did."
But Repole said he knows with the injuries, horse deaths and scratches for the Kentucky Derby this week, safety is being scrutinized.
"I think the vets are being overly-cautious, and I understand that. The safety of the horse is the most important thing. I'm more concerned about the systems that we have than scratching this horse under these bright lights," he said.
Repole told WDRB that Derby is a big stage for horse racing, but he thinks there should be more consistency state to state about what's allowed and how rulings are handed down.
"We haven't had the best week here, and I think they were overly-cautious. But I have to understand and respect the fact they were overly-cautious. I would just like to be more consistent with the process in how we do things - Kentucky versus New York versus everywhere, and the different rules and regulations, different medications and different vets. It just makes it - this horse might have not run in five states today, and he might have run in six states today. And there are certain medications you can use in this state that you can't use in another state, so you always have to be on top," he said.
Repole said things have changed in the sport. "Five horses, as of today, scratched in this race, and I'm telling you that five years ago, there might have been none."
Forte is the fifth horse to scratch from the Derby. Trainer John Shireffs pulled Skinner on Friday. Practical Move, Lord Miles and Continuar (JPN) were scratched Thursday. According to Churchill Downs, the last time five horses were scratched from the Kentucky Derby was 1936 when 19 horses entered the race and 14 ran.
Following the scratch, the track announced the Forte jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will now ride trainer Dale Romans' Cyclone Mischief in the Derby.
For race fans, Churchill Downs said program numbers for the Kentucky Derby won't change, but post positions are moved without changing of the order of the starters. "The 18-horse lineup will break from posts 1-18 in the 20-stall Kentucky Derby starting gate. Posts 19 and 20 will be empty."
It has been a dramatic week at Churchill Downs leading up to the race that will certainly have safety issues as a priority.
Lord Miles was scratched from the race, and his trainer, Saffie Joseph Jr., was suspended indefinitely by Churchill Downs Inc. days after two of his horses died on the track after races. Investigators have yet to find the cause of either death.
King Russell, trained by Ron Moquett, moved into the field on Thursday after Continuar dropped out. The horse is owned in-part by former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones. Odds for King Russell are at 55-1.
Trainer Tim Yakteen pulled Santa Anita winner Practical Move out the race Thursday because of a fever, as well. His defection moved Louisville trainer Dale Roman's horse, Cyclone Mischief, into the field. His odds are at 49-1.
Last week, Derby contender Wild on Ice, trained by Joel Marr, was euthanized, after an injury at the track.
- CRAWFORD | Scratching favorite Forte from Kentucky Derby a tough call, but worthy of respect
- After Forte scratch, jockey Irad Ortiz gets the mount on Dale Romans' Cyclone Mischief
- Continuar scratched from Kentucky Derby, King Russell moves into the field
- 'I'M A SCAPEGOAT:' Suspended Derby trainer fires back at Churchill Downs
- Kentucky racing commission scratches Lord Miles from Kentucky Derby; Churchill suspends trainer
- Practical Move scratches from Kentucky Derby 149 opening race to Cyclone Mischief
- Trainers report no injuries, no defections, after Derby and Oaks entries get loose in training
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