Horse racing-Kentucky Derby favourite Forte scratched from race

(Reuters) -Early favourite Forte has been scratched from the Kentucky Derby hours before post time for the first leg of U.S. thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown due to concerns about a bruised front foot, Churchill Downs said on Saturday.

The Todd Pletcher-trained dark bay colt had brought a five-race win streak to the 1-1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and was installed as the early 3-1 favourite.


The decision to scratch Forte, who appeared to stumble during a gallop earlier in the week, was made by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission state veterinarian.

Forte was the fifth horse to scratch from Saturday’s race, joining Practical Move, Lord Miles, Continaur and Skinner. The last time five horses were scratched from the Kentucky Derby was 1936 when 19 horses entered the race and 14 ran.

Irad Ortiz Jr., who was scheduled to ride Forte, will now ride Cyclone Mischief, a bay colt trained by Dale Romans who replaced Practical Move in the field.

The race, scheduled to begin at 6:57 p.m. ET (2257 GMT), will now feature 18 horses and has been overshadowed by the deaths of a number of horses in recent days.

Seven deaths are being investigated by the Louisville racetrack, which said it is working with regulators after imposing an indefinite suspension on Saffie Joseph Jr., the trainer of two of the dead horses, Parents Pride and Chasing Artie.

Two other horses died as a result of racing or training, including Derby entrant Wild On Ice and three-year-old filly Take Charge Briana, while Code of Kings was euthanized for injuries sustained after flipping several times in the paddock.

Two more horses, Chloe’s Dream and Freezing Point, had to be euthanized on Saturday after sustaining injuries in races leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

Animal rights group PETA said on Saturday that, given the number of deaths, they had urged Churchill Downs to close the track in order to implement stronger safety protocols.

“Although PETA appreciates that the Kentucky state veterinarian exercised caution by scratching the Derby favorite, we called for the closure of the track so stronger protocols could be put in place, said Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo in a statement.

“Churchill Downs should have listened.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; additional reporting by Janina Nuno Rios and Angelica Medina , editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)