Saturday, May 04, 2002

2nd choice is a late scratch

Buddha suffers foot injury

By Neil Schmidt,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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        LOUISVILLE — On Thursday morning, Buddha trainer James Bond said, “God's grace is looking out for us now.”

        At 5 a.m. Friday, a day before his first Kentucky Derby, Bond noticed his colt limping. Within the hour, Buddha would be scratched and Bond's lifelong dream denied.

        “Life is humbling,” Bond said. “It wasn't meant to be, and I don't know the reason why.”

        Many racing analysts believed Buddha, a co-second choice at 5-1 in the morning line, would be the post-time favorite. Suddenly he was out — the injury was to his left front foot — and Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day was left without a mount. Seven hours later, Day picked up the ride on long shot Blue Burner when Corey Nakatani was diagnosed with a light concussion.

        Nakatani took a spill Thursday in a race at Hollywood Park. He was to have flown Friday to Louisville, but a doctor reportedly told Nakatani he shouldn't fly.

        “It's a tough game, a roller-coaster,” Day said of the day's events. “I'm excited about the opportunity (on Blue Burner), but I'm still disappointed for the connections of Buddha. Nothing will take away that disappointment.”

        Veterinarian Larry Bramlage said Buddha appeared to have a soft-tissue injury and not a bone fracture. The colt will be examined again Monday to determine when he can resume training with the possibility of making the May 18 Preakness Stakes.

        Bramlage said the injury could have occurred from stepping on a stone, or from twisting an ankle or knee.

        Buddha was the highest-profile horse to scratch since 1992 morning-line favorite A.P. Indy did so on the morning of the race.

        “I thought (Buddha) was the best horse in the race,” said Bob Baffert, trainer of War Emblem and Danthebluegrassman.

        Bond, 44, was near tears when informing race officials of the news.

        “Jimmy was beating himself up, running everything through this mind: what he could have done, what he should have done,” Day said. “But the bottom line is that he covered all the bases. This was beyond his control.”

        With the move to Blue Burner, Day will extend his record streak of consecutive Derby mounts to 19.


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