"No foot, no horse," the old-timers used to say.
And the big news of the moment, as the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby looms six days away, involves the condition of the feet of Quality Road, winner of the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby and expected to be among the favorites with I Want Revenge next Saturday.
Aiken's Ron Stevens gave Quality Road his first lessons on becoming a race horse. Since his track record-performance in Florida's Derby on March 28, trainer Jimmy Jerkens has been trying to keep Quality Road fit and on track for his engagement at Churchill Downs, while battling hoof problems that now threaten to deny the handsome bay son of Elusive Quality the opportunity to participate in thoroughbred racing's marquee event.
The first sign of trouble was the discovery of a quarter crack in the colt's right hind hoof shortly after the big win in Florida. Hoof specialist Ian McKinlay was immediately called in and was able to affix a patch to the hoof that stabilized it and allowed Quality Road to continue to train. This setback was viewed as minor and matters seemed under control until three days ago, when Jerkens spotted another quarter crack on the inside of the right forefoot of his charge.
As one views the bottom of a horse's foot, the frog divides the rear of the hoof and the small, curved protrusions of the back of the hoof are referred to as the bulbs of the heel. When a horse is running, this is the part of the foot that hits the ground first and absorbs the greatest impact.
The quarter is the very narrow portion of the hoof -- no wider than an inch or two -- running from the point of the bulb on each side forward toward the toe.
Most quarter cracks run from the tender coronet band at the top of the hoof downward and result from improper loading, which occurs when stress affects the hoof unevenly and one side is subjected to more pressure than it can stand. Modern treatment of a quarter crack involves ascertaining that there is no infection in the hoof and then stabilizing it by a procedure known as lacing.
Small holes are drilled in the hoof wall and wire is used to draw the crack together, thereby stabilizing the hoof and allowing the horse to undertake light exercise. If the horse jogs without lameness and no blood oozes from the area of the crack, an acrylic patch, which sets within ten or fifteen minutes, is, applied. Then, the horse should be able to return to normal training and hopefully, can race without adverse effect.
Quality Road's hoof was patched after the colt jogged a mile and three-quarters on Belmont's training track and plans are to give him a full gallop, presumably at least a mile and a half, this morning and breeze him tomorrow. If all goes well, he'll ship to Louisville on Tuesday.
"If he comes out of the gallop well, I'd be really surprised if he was to work on it and have any problems," Jerkens said after Quality Road cooled out to his satisfaction. "(Today) is the big day as far as finding out where we're going."
DERBY TRIAL: In Louisville, Ky., Hull took control at the top of the stretch then easily held off a late charge from Kensei to win the $100,000 Derby Trial by four lengths at Churchill Downs.
Hull, ridden by Miguel Mena, won for the third time in three career starts. Trainer Dale Romans said he'll likely point the horse to the Preakness on May 16.
WHEN: 6:04 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.
TV: NBC-Ch. 26