Belmont Stakes hopeful Epicharis did not go to the track to train Thursday morning, and the New York State Gaming Commission’s veterinary report said he was treated for lameness in his right front foot at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The problem could keep him out of Saturday’s race.
The Japan-based colt received 2 grams of phenylbutazone (bute) via an IV “for lameness right front (foot), possible hoof.”
Bute is an anti-inflammatory, non-steroidal medication used for various ailments. In New York, it may be administered up to 48 hours before post time, which for the Belmont is 6:37 p.m. So any such treatment after 6:30 p.m. Thursday would force Epicharis out of the race.
Lameness is common among thoroughbreds. It can clear up quickly or sideline them indefinitely.
“There’s always a question of soundness,” Dr. Greg Bennett, an Elmont-based veterinarian, told Newsday. “It’s certainly not a good thing for a horse to have an issue trying to make a race. It could just be soreness or it could be anything.”
Trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara said Epicharis walked Thursday morning. He hoped he could resume regular training Friday.
“He looked a little different favoring his right front foot Wednesday afternoon, so we treated his hoof and gave him bute,” Hagiwara said through an interpreter. “It looks like it is getting better, and I think there is no problem with running in the race. We still have time, so we will give him the best care we can.”
It was the second consecutive day in which a Belmont contender had a physical problem. Trainer Mark Casse announced Wednesday morning that Classic Empire would not run because of a foot abscess. Classic Empire finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby and was runner-up in the Preakness.