LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Archarcharch’s storybook trip to the Kentucky Derby ended when the 3-year-old colt pulled up lame in the final yards at Churchill Downs.
The Arkansas Derby winner sustained a fracture to his left front leg on Saturday, but on-call veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage said it was not a life-threatening injury.
“He’s in no distress at all,” Bramlage said. “He walked right on the ambulance. He was lame when he pulled up but it wasn’t a situation where he was in that much trouble.” Jockey Jon Court said the horse struggled over the dirt at Churchill Downs. Archarcharch started from the rail and finished 15th, then was quickly taken for X-rays in the barn area.
“In the final sixteenth of a mile he was just gimping a bit,” Court said. “He was walking on it but he just wasn’t comfortable.” Bramlage said the horse will require surgery but “it is not an emergency situation.” It’s too early to tell if Archarcharch will race again.
The colt had been one of the feel-good stories of the week, providing 70-year-old trainer Jinks Fires and Court — his son-in-law — with the first Derby appearances of their lengthy careers. The two have worked at Churchill Downs off and on for years.
A large group of family and friends gathered at Barn 40 following the race. They began the day in festive spirits with their annual Derby Day cookout, but things were more subdued as Archarcharch grazed in his stall afterward.
“He looked good, but someone said he just couldn’t get out of the ground,” said Candice Fires, Jinks’ daughter.
In a wide-open Derby lacking star power, Archarcharch had a better shot than most.
His chances took a significant hit when he drew the rail for the 19-horse field. The spot had produced a dozen Derby winners through the years, but none since Ferdinand in 1986.
Fires called it one more obstacle in a career full of them shortly after the draw. Yet it proved to be too much for Archarcharch, who went off at 9-1 as bettors hoped he could duplicate his breathtaking finish at Oaklawn Park that propelled him into the Run for the Roses.
It simply never happened.
Archarcharch loped near the rear of the field and didn’t fire when Court asked for more. He passed a couple of tiring horses down the stretch before hitting the wire, but by then Court was attempting to pull Archarcharch up to prevent serious injury.