Kentucky Derby 2023 LIVE UPDATES: Forte favorites from the race

Louisville, Kentucky — On Saturday morning, state veterinarians scratched Forte, the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, after examining him and finding him unfit to compete due to a contusion to his right front hoof. Rumors that the colt was ill circulated throughout Churchill Downs throughout the week.

Kentucky organizers had no immediate comment, but vets were cautious in the lead-up to the 149th race after four horses died in six days at Churchill Downs. The deaths during Derby week drew attention to troubling aspects of the sport, which is declining in popularity and under scrutiny over the care and treatment of horses.

Forte was named last year’s champion two-year-old and won six of his seven races. He was well bred and trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. He was to be ridden by the best jockey in the country, Irad Ortiz Jr..

Now only 18 horses will compete in the Derby. Forte is the fifth horse to be scratched from Saturday’s race, joining Practical Move, Lord Miles, Container and Skinner. The last time five horses scratched from the Kentucky Derby was in 1936, when 19 horses entered the race and 14 ran.

Forte’s co-owner, Mike Ripoll, said the colt suffered a bruise on Wednesday. Ripoll said he and Pletcher called in veterinarians and state veterinarians charged with monitoring the horses’ health and removed them from competition. State vets monitored Forte daily.

Forte ran at about 7:45 a.m. on Saturday. He was examined again by state veterinarians, who told Ripoll that the colt was still “marked” and that he would be scratched.

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Ripoll said he was disappointed with Forte, Bletcher, Ortiz and the team that prepared Forte for the race.

“You can only be a 3-year-old colt on the first Saturday in May once in your life,” he told the TVG racing network.

The death of four horses in six days at Churchill Downs made the fragile nature of Thoroughbred racing evident. Derby’s entrant, Wild on Ice, is killed after being shot in the leg; Another horse was lowered after being wounded; Two collapsed and died during training exercises.

In 2011 Ripoll had to scratch another champion two-year-old, Uncle Mo, the day before the race. The colt had a gastrointestinal infection.

“I’m 0 for 7 in the derby,” Ripoll said earlier in the week. “The pressure of owning such a horse is tough. We all hope and pray and dream that we can get here. When you do, what happens in the days leading up to the race can be scary. He could get sick or get injured or step on something. You just want Access to the portal.

In the days leading up to the Derby, Churchill Downs was always rife with rumors and speculation about the horses’ welfare. Forte did not escape scrutiny.

The colt appeared to falter during Thursday’s gallop, and the moment, captured on video, was analyzed by riders and horse lovers alike.

But Pletcher on Friday denied the rumors. He said Forte was ready to run and that he was looking forward to giving Ortiz a leg in the saddle on Saturday.

“He has appeared and done so well in all his early life, and I wouldn’t expect anything different from him,” Pletcher said of Forte.

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Early Saturday morning, Ripoll took several of his 75 family and friends out in town for the Derby for a private get-together with Forte. They returned to the hotel full of hope.

It wasn’t to be.

“He might be able to run the Preakness if we want,” Ripoll said. “I think I and Todd need more healing from him.”

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