LOUISVILLE — Maybe winning the Grade I Wood Memorial isn't the best way to get to the Kentucky Derby anymore.
For the third straight year, the victor of Aqueduct's prestigious prep race will not make it to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. This year's winner, Toby's Corner, was ruled out of the Kentucky Derby on Tuesday because of lameness in his left hind leg.
Eskendereya, winner of the 2010 Wood Memorial, was pulled from Derby consideration six days before the race because of a career-ending leg injury, and 2009 race winner I Want Revenge was scratched the morning of his expected start in the Derby because of an ankle ailment.
Toby's Corner breezed 6 furlongs at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland on Sunday, but he was sent to Dr. Dean Richardson at the New Bolton Center Monday afternoon when he was found to be off in his left leg.
The loss of the son of Bellamy Road from the Derby field clears the way for Ken and Sarah Ramsey's aptly named Derby Kitten to make the 20-horse cut for the first leg of the Triple Crown.
"We spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how to handle it and what we were dealing with," trainer Graham Motion said. "We were within a 24-hour window of making a decision of whether he would ship (Tuesday) or not. Obviously, time was of the essence to rule out whether we were dealing with a minor foot abscess or a significant injury.
"When we really couldn't get to the bottom of what it was because there was nothing clinical or nothing obvious," Motion continued, "we spoke with Dean at about 6:30 a.m. and felt that he was exactly the same as he had been the previous afternoon. At that point, I called (owner) Dianne Cotter and told her that we were in trouble, basically."
Motion has another Kentucky Derby hopeful in Vinery Spiral Stakes winner Animal Kingdom — not that it lessens the blow of having one of his top trainees go to the sidelines.
"I think as trainer you become somewhat of a pessimist because you half expect something like this to happen," said Motion, who has had only two Kentucky Derby starters. "That's why it's hard to get too up for these events until you're there."
The mood was somewhat different in Nicholasville as the Ramseys celebrated the surprise inclusion of Derby Kitten into his namesake race.
The homebred son of Kitten's Joy enters the race off a win in the Grade III Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 23, but he has yet to win over a dirt surface.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic, and I can't sit down," Ken Ramsey beamed.
Ramsey announced late Tuesday afternoon that Javier Castellano would ride Derby Kitten on Saturday. The colt had been ridden by Julien Leparoux in the Lexington Stakes, but Leparoux is set to ride likely Derby favorite Dialed In.
Master of Hounds on the grounds
Susan Magnier's Master of Hounds arrived in Louisville from Ireland on Tuesday and was bedded down in Barn 45 at Churchill Downs.
The bay son of Kingmambo is another Derby contender who has not yet won over a dirt surface, but he is taking a shot because of the wide-open field. Master of Hounds most recently finished second in the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai on March 26, and he was sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill in November.
"All his work is done. He's run in Dubai and will improve from the run that he had," said T.J. Comerford, traveling head lad for trainer Aidan O'Brien. "He's coming here with a good chance. We think he has, anyway."
Archarcharch has impromptu work
Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch was given a half-mile work in :52 in company over the sloppy Churchill track after a scheduled gallop went faster than originally planned.
"It was not really a work," trainer Jinks Fires said. "They were just doing a two-minute lick around there to make them competitive, but they went a little faster than I wanted to. Archarcharch will go by himself tomorrow."