Epicharis and his connections came 6,700 miles from Japan for nothing. So did a five-man television crew, including a race caller and an analyst, and nine reporters and photographers.
The colt was scratched from the Belmont Stakes because of a foot ailment shortly after 9 a.m. yesterday. Dr. Anthony Verderosa, the New York Racing Association’s chief examining veterinarian, determined that Epicharis should not run because his sore right foot had not healed sufficiently to pass a prerace exam.
Trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara said he was disappointed for fans of the horse, interpreter Sushi Inoue said. Hagiwara called the issue “minor” but said, “We have to face the fact that he is not able to compete today.
“The horse was close to being able to compete, but we ran out of time.”
On Thursday, Hagiwara said he realized the colt had become lame Wednesday afternoon. Despite the use of mild analgesics Wednesday and Thursday and soaking the foot in a bucket of ice, the injury did not heal fully. Epicharis, who is a nose away from being 5-for-5 lifetime, did not train Thursday or Friday, which jeopardized his participation in the Triple Crown finale.
Hagiwara said Epicharis will return to Japan on Thursday.
Five million viewers were expected to watch the race live this morning in Japan, where a betting handle of $10 million or more seemed likely. The New York Racing Association would have received a small percentage of that money, “in line with the international simulcasting rate,” according to NYRA executive Martin Panza.