Atswhatimtalknbout, a fast-finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby and a colt who fit the profile of horses that sometimes spring upsets in the Belmont Stakes, was withdrawn from the Belmont on Thursday because of a lingering hoof injury.
Atswhatimtalknbout’s defection means that Funny Cide has one fewer challenger to beat when he tries to win the Belmont, sweep the Triple Crown and earn a $5-million bonus here June 7.
A field of eight to 11 horses is expected for the Belmont, which has been the stumbling block for four Derby-Preakness winners in the last six years.
Two of the four spoilers during that span -- Touch Gold and Lemon Drop Kid -- ran in either the Derby or the Preakness, but not both, and Sarava, last year’s Belmont winner, skipped both of the earlier Triple Crown races. Touch Gold, who beat Triple Crown aspirant Silver Charm in the 1997 Belmont, won despite a hoof problem, something that trainer Ron Ellis was unable to overcome with Atswhatimtalknbout.
Ellis did his best at Churchill Downs, where Atswhatimtalknbout had trained since he was beaten by only two lengths despite repeated trouble in the Derby.
Wes Champagne, a well known farrier, was flown in from California last week to re-shoe the colt, who was also outfitted with a patch for his right front foot when an abscess turned into a cracked hoof.
But Ellis lost a couple of days of training last week, and then Wednesday, Atswhatimtalknbout in effect told him he wasn’t ready when he worked a mile at Churchill in a terribly slow time of 1:46 4/5. Atswhatimtalknbout seemed to be protecting his right hoof, and lost a shoe off his left front foot before the workout was over.
“It’s disappointing, because after the Derby, I thought we were a legitimate threat in the Belmont,” Ellis said.
“The more I watched head-on replays of the Derby, the more trouble I found the horse was in, and we still didn’t get beat by much.”
Atswhatimtalknbout did not run as a 2-year-old, so Ellis hurried him to get ready for the Derby, which was his sixth start of the year. Before that, despite never having won a stake, he had finished fourth as the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby.
Besides Funny Cide, the only other Belmont probable who has run in both Triple Crown races is Scrimshaw. Empire Maker, Ten Most Wanted, Midway Road and Outta Here have run in either the Derby or Preakness. The others -- Dynever, Best Minister, Colita, Supervisor and Wild And Wicked -- are jumping into the Triple Crown for the first time.