Big blow for Baffert as leading Kentucky Derby hope Nadal retires due to injury
An already testing week became more difficult for trainer Bob Baffert following confirmation that leading Kentucky Derby contender Nadal has been retired due to injury.
The impressive Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) scorer, who was as short as 5-1 for the rescheduled Churchill Downs spectacular on September 5, suffered a left front lateral condylar fracture following a Santa Anita workout on Thursday.
The son of Breeders' Cup Classic hero Blame later went into surgery at the equine hospital at the Southern California track, but will not race again.
Nadal's absence from the Triple Crown series comes as a major blow to his trainer, whose Kentucky Derby favourite Charlatan reportedly did not pass initial post-race testing after winning the first division of the Arkansas Derby earlier this month.
As a result, testing is being done on a split sample, according to a report in the BloodHorse.
Nadal's co-owner George Bolton said: "It requires two screws. He is now going to become a stallion. It's very sad, obviously. I just got the call this morning. It's a call you never want to get in horse racing.
"He retires undefeated. He retires, thank God, on a soon-to-be recovery. He gave us four great races."
Baffert said the surgery went well, adding the colt would stay at his Santa Anita stable for a few weeks during the early part of his post-surgery recovery.
"He came back from the work a little off so we checked him and there was a little line (on the x-ray)," Baffert said. "He had the beginnings of a fracture. It could have been worse, but we caught it before then."
Nadal, who Bolton said could possibly stand at Spendthrift Farm for his stallion career, was the leader on the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings with 150 points and sat atop the latest National Thoroughbred Racing Association top three-year-old poll.
After a maiden win in January at Santa Anita, he rattled off three consecutive stakes victories in the San Vicente Stakes (Grade 2), Rebel Stakes (Grade 2) and the top-level Arkansas Derby when last seen.
That Oaklawn success came on the original date of the Kentucky Derby, leaving Baffert to wonder what might have been.
"The timing was perfect for him for the Derby. He was on a great schedule," he said. "It's just a shame with the Derby dreams. The window – he was right there."
The bay colt developed into an imposing physical specimen as a three-year-old, weighing over 1,300 pounds (roughly 590kg), and was a candidate for the rearranged Belmont Stakes on June 20.
Baffert previously told the BloodHorse he was inclined to run Charlatan in the 7f Woody Stephens Stakes (Grade 1) on the Belmont undercard rather than have the two colts run together in the prized Classic.
With Nadal out, his conflict of running the pair together no longer exists, but the 67-year-old handler remains noncommittal about race plans.
"I have to talk to everybody," Baffert said about Charlatan's status for the Belmont Stakes.
"The owners want to run in the Woody Stephens. We'll see how the horse is training and make a decision.
"This is why I didn't like it when I heard the Kentucky Derby was moved to September. It's so hard to get there, especially when you had them ready to roll in May."
As for the Belmont Stakes, without Nadal and plans for Charlatan uncertain, it leaves Florida Derby (Grade 1) winner Tiz the Law as the likely favourite.
Godolphin's Maxfield remains a possibility for the new opening leg of the Triple Crown after landing the Matt Win Stakes last week on his three-year-old debut.
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