El Kabeir in doubt for Kentucky Derby because of sore foot
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) El Kabeir's sore foot knocked the horse out of the Kentucky Derby.
The gray colt did not have his usual jog on Friday and Justin Zayat, son of owner Ahmed Zayat, later said on Twitter that ''it looks like he might be getting a foot abscess or a foot bruise'' in his left front foot.
That put trainer John Terranova in a race against the clock to resolve the problem. Late Friday afternoon, he notified Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards that the horse was scratched.
That reduces Saturday's field to 19. Horses will slide down and leave the No. 1 post position against the rail open.
Terranova noticed when El Kabeir took a few cautious steps out of his stall.
''We'll do what's best for the horse,'' the trainer said.
The defection came too late for Tale of Verve, the second also-eligible Derby horse. Friday's 9 a.m. scratch deadline came and went with the field still intact. The rules prevent any horses being added to the race after that.
Stanford was scratched Thursday, which opened a spot for Frammento, the first also eligible, to join the field from post No. 20.
DERBY DEPTH: The 15-1 early odds on Upstart is a reflection of the depth of the 141st Derby field.
In other years, Upstart would draw more respect. But this Derby appears loaded, topped by trainer Bob Baffert's intimidating duo of American Pharoah and Dortmund.
So Upstart gets lost in the 20-horse crowd, creating possible wagering value on a colt with legitimate credentials.
Upstart won his first two races at Saratoga last summer. He closed the year with strong efforts in Grade 1 stakes, finishing second in the Champagne run in the slop at Belmont Park and third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.
He wintered in Florida with trainer Rick Violette, winning the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth before a second-place finish to the undefeated Materiality in the Florida Derby.
''Between racetracks and trips, it hasn't been ideal as far as results,'' Violette said. ''Still, only one horse beat us all winter. He's run fast enough to win the Derby, and he's trained great coming into this.''
This will be the second straight year Violette brings a New York-bred to the Derby. After vying for the lead on the final turn, Samraat finished fifth last year.
Jose Ortiz, Samraat's rider, has the mount aboard Upstart.
READY TO FIRE: Dortmund, 6 for 6 coming into the Derby, had two close calls that could have blemished his unbeaten record.
Both times it was Firing Line who pushed him to the limit.
Firing Line carries a generous 12-1 price for a horse that finished only a head behind Dortmund in the Los Alamitos Futurity and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.
After the two narrow losses, trainer Simon Callaghan chose not to test Dortmund a third straight time. He took Firing Line to New Mexico, where he romped by 14 1/4 lengths in the Sunland Derby.
''As a trainer, you prefer to have an easy race for your horse coming into one like this,'' Callaghan said. ''We thought we could do well in that race but we were a bit surprised by just how well he did. I've never had a horse win a stakes race by that far. It was a confidence builder for him, and we're glad of that.''
Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, a three-time Derby winner, will ride.
This will be the Derby debut for Callaghan.
''I believe he's ready,'' the trainer said. ''He's feeling good, acting good, right where we want him to be.''
JOCK ON THE CLOCK: Many riders have mounts at more than one track over the course of a weekend.
Few travel as far as Christophe Soumillon, the jockey for Mubtaahij in the Derby. He has also booked assignments at Longchamp Racecourse in Paris on Sunday.
As soon as the Derby is over, a police escort will hustle Soumillon to the Louisville airport where a private jet will whisk him to Teterboro Airport in northern New Jersey.
From there a limo will be waiting for the drive to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens to catch the last flight to Paris.
He is scheduled land at noon in France, where another car will take him to Longchamp in time for racing to start at 1:30 p.m. Soumillon might sneak in a quick nap. His first mount is at 3 p.m. in the Prix Ganay.