Japanese horse Epicharis scratched from Belmont Stakes

NEW YORK (AP) The Belmont Stakes is down to 11 horses after Epicharis was scratched after a veterinarian exam on Saturday morning.

The New York Racing Association said the exam revealed continued inflammation in the Japanese colt's right front hoof. Epicharis wasn't ready to run the 1+-mile race three days after the colt was treated for lameness in his hoof.

The pre-race exam is standard for all Belmont runners.

The colt was the 4-1 second choice for the $1.5 million race. He was eligible for a $1 million bonus if he had won as part of NYRA's campaign to lure a Japanese horse to compete.

Epicharis' connections had hoped he would still make the race, but the colt had not been sent out to train since Tuesday.

''The horse was close to being able to compete but we ran out of time,'' trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara said through a translator. ''We'd like to thank the team of veterinarians and staff for their hard work. We look forward to getting Epicharis home and back to the racetrack very soon.''

Epicharis has not raced since finishing second in the UAE Derby on March 25.

The colt will be shipped back to Japan on Thursday.

Irish War Cry is the early 7-2 favorite for the final leg of the Triple Crown series.

Despite Epicharis' scratch, there will still be separate, non-comingled wagering on the Belmont in Japan.

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