LOUISVILLE — It wasn't one of his high-profile Kentucky Derby contenders, but trainer Todd Pletcher still had to deal with the angst of having one of his favorites for this weekend fall to the wayside on Monday.
Grade I winner R Heat Lightning was declared out of Friday's Kentucky Oaks after heat was detected in her right front leg.
R Heat Lightning was expected to be among the favorites for the Kentucky Derby's sister race. She won the Grade II Davona Dale and Gulfstream Oaks by a combined 151/2 lengths in her past two starts.
The bay daughter of Trippi appeared to jog fine over the Churchill Downs track in the morning but was found to be ailing shortly upon her return to the shedrow.
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"We noticed back at the barn that she seemed to be just a little off in her right front," Pletcher said. "We checked her and could feel some heat in her right knee. We consulted with her owner's people and the decision was made to withdraw her from the race."
Owned and bred by the E Paul Robsham Stable, R Heat Lightning will be sent to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington for further evaluation. In addition to her last two graded stakes wins, the headstrong filly captured the Grade I Spinaway at Saratoga last September.
"It's a shame. A filly like this at the top of her game and with a chance to run in a race like (the Kentucky Oaks), that's what you hope for," Pletcher said.
Midnight Interlude green but good in final work
Upstart Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude was among the handful of Kentucky Derby contenders putting in their final serious breezes Monday, covering 5 furlongs in 1:00.80 in company with Mythical Power.
The son of War Chant broke off to the outside of his stablemate and soared through fractions of :12.40, :24.40, :36.40 and :48.20 under jockey Martin Garcia.
Despite idling a bit when he made the lead, Midnight Interlude pulled ahead of his workmate with a strong gallop out.
"He's still green, he's learning how to run," trainer Bob Baffert said. "Once he got in front of the workmate, he wants to shut it down a bit. He's figuring it out. But I was really happy with the way he went."
Blue Grass Stakes winner Brilliant Speed and Tampa Bay Derby victor Watch Me Go also went 5 furlongs, clocking in at 1:01 and 1:02, respectively. Graded stakes winner Santiva drilled 4 furlongs in :50.20 over the wet track for trainer Eddie Kenneally, and Louisiana Derby runner-up Nehro covered 4 furlongs in :51.20.
"I think we're just letting him be happy," said Steve Asmussen, trainer of Nehro. "The horse hasn't always been a big work horse. He's stayed very consistent with his appetite and his attitude but he's not one to impress you with his works."
Dialed In gets feet wet
Florida Derby winner and likely Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In went for his first gallop since arriving at Churchill Downs on Saturday, skipping over the sloppy surface with his customary ease.
"He galloped a pretty long way, went around twice there," trainer Nick Zito said. "I can't remember, believe it or not, since I got him galloping on a track like that. But he liked it. I think that was the first time — this morning — that he galloped on a wet track. It looked like he did all right."
Dialed In has enjoyed a quick career ascent, winning the Grade III Holy Bull in his second career start in January and using his big kick to take the Florida Derby by a neck.
"I'm just confident with a horse like this. He always tries so hard," Zito said. "You know he's going to put in his run."