Things continue to go well for Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome, who may benefit from the Thursday morning scratch of the second choice in the morning line odds.
Trainer Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity, a 6-1 choice scheduled to be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, was dropped from the field when Baffert and his assistants detected tenderness in his left front foot.
Baffert said the injury was likely not serious and the horse could be fine by Saturday, but he didn’t want to take a chance. The trainer, who has won the Derby with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002, has a second entry, 20-1 Chitu.
“It’s part of the game,” Baffert said. “That’s why I have heart attacks. It’s stressful, but I feel good about it [the decision to scratch the horse].”
Baffert said that an entry for Hoppertunity in the second leg of the Triple Crown, the May 17 Preakness Stakes, was still a strong possibility.
“Hopefully, he will be feeling better,” he said.
Smith, who has won one Derby aboard Giacomo in 2005, said upon hearing of Hoppertunity’s scratch, “I feel like I was punched in the gut.”
The scratch brought about a shuffle in the morning line odds by Derby linemaker Mike Battaglia. After California Chrome at 5-2, he made Wicked Strong the second pick at 6-1, down from 8-1, made Danza and Intense Holiday a joint third pick at 8-1, and reduced the odds on Tapiture to 12-1 and Candy Boy to 15-1.
Danza had been 10-1, Intense Holiday 12-1, Tapiture 15-1 and Candy Boy 20-1.
The scratch also opened a spot in the field for the also-eligible Pablo Del Monte, who was listed in Battaglia’s morning line odds at 50-1. The third-place finisher in the recent Blue Grass Stakes, Pablo Del Monte is trained by Wesley Ward and has two wins in six starts and total earnings of $158,000.
There was no immediate word on whether Pablo Del Monte would, indeed, take advantage of the opening and enter. His connections have until 9 a.m. Friday to make that call.
Hoppertunity was second to California Chrome, 5 1/4 lengths back, in the April 5 Santa Anita Derby.
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