BALTIMORE — The 123rd Preakness Stakes lost two of its top contenders Tuesday when Halory Hunter suffered a probable career-ending injury during a workout at Pimlico and trainer Bob Baffert withdrew Indian Charlie, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby.
Halory Hunter, fourth in the Derby, broke his left foreleg and underwent surgery late Tuesday at the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The injury is not life threatening, but is expected to end the career of trainer Nick Zito's colt, who is owned by a partnership that includes Rick Pitino, the coach of the Boston Celtics.
Halory Hunter, who won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland three weeks before the Derby, was near the end of a five-furlong workout when he was injured. Back at the barn, X-rays showed what one veterinarian described as a severe fracture in the area between the ankle and the knee. During the surgery, a plate and 10 screws were needed to fuse the bone.
It had rained for 13 consecutive days in Baltimore and the track was listed as sloppy for Tuesday's workouts. Zito, who won the 1996 Preakness with Louis Quatorze, felt that he needed a workout for Halory Hunter, who had done little since shipping here from Kentucky.
"I feel responsible," Zito said. "Because I took a chance even though I knew the track was off. I wanted to win the Preakness, and I lost. This game can humble kings and I'm very humbled today."
Halory Hunter, who hadn't won a stake until his victory in the Blue Grass, likely finished his career with three wins, two seconds and three thirds in 10 starts. He earned $713,120. With a bandaged leg, the colt was in a stall at New Bolton Tuesday night. He will recuperate at Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky.
Indian Charlie, who finished 2 3/4 lengths behind as his stablemate, Real Quiet, won the Derby on May 2, was favored at Churchill Downs and might have been favored again Saturday here at Pimlico.
Working separately at Churchill Downs on Tuesday, Real Quiet and Indian Charlie turned in identical five-furlong times of :59 1/5, but Baffert decided afterward that he would ship only Real Quiet here.
"Physically, he's fine," Baffert said of Indian Charlie. "But he's been losing weight on me, like he did after [winning] the Santa Anita Derby. The time of his work was all right, but he didn't do it aggressively or with any power. The horse has a great future and I wouldn't run him unless he's 100%."
Indian Charlie was undefeated in four starts before the Kentucky Derby. Baffert said that it was unlikely the colt would run in the final Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes, on June 6. One race mentioned by Baffert for Indian Charlie was the $1-million Haskell Invitational Handicap at Monmouth Park on Aug. 9.
With Indian Charlie and Halory Hunter out, the Preakness field mushroomed, and there may be as many as 12 horses running. Besides Real Quiet, holdovers from the Derby include Victory Gallop, second at Churchill Downs; Cape Town, fifth, and Chilito, 11th.
Other probables are Coronado's Quest, Black Cash, Hot Wells, Classic Cat, Baquero, Thomas Jo, Spartan Cat and Silver's Prospect.
Trainer Wayne Lukas, who has won the Preakness four times, will saddle Cape Town and Baquero. Lukas said that the decision to run Baquero, who has won two of 11 starts and never run in a stake, was not related to the departures of Indian Charlie and Halory Hunter. Baquero, a sprinter who probably will contest the pace with Coronado's Quest, races for Bob and Beverly Lewis, who own Silver Charm, last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.
Gary Stevens, who would have ridden Indian Charlie, has been named to ride Victory Gallop, replacing Alex Solis.
Baffert was enthusiastic about Real Quiet's workout.
"You had to see the two works to appreciate the difference," he said. "Based on what I saw today, Real Quiet has got what it takes to win the Triple Crown. But he's got to get the trip and he's got to be lucky."
A year ago, Baffert won the Derby and the Preakness with Silver Charm, who missed out on a $5-million bonus when he finished second to Touch Gold in the Belmont.
Pimlico officials may face a protest from Baffert and other horsemen if they give preferential treatment to Coronado's Quest, a fractious colt who has acted up before some of his starts. Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Coronado's Quest, reportedly has asked that his horse be the last to enter the Preakness saddling area, in the Pimlico infield, and that he be excused from the post parade.
"I don't object to what they're doing for that horse, but if that's the case, I'd want my horse to be able to do the same thing," Baffert said. "I've got more at stake [a $5-million Triple Crown bonus] than Shug does."
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The Preakness Stakes / Race at a Glance
* When: Saturday, post time 2:30 p.m. PDT
* Where: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore
* TV: Channel 7, 1:30 p.m.
* Probable starters: Basquero, Black Cash, Cape Town, Chilito, Classic Cat, Coronado's Quest, Hot Wells, Real Quiet, Silver's Prospect, Spartan Cat, Thomas Jo, Vicotry Gallop.