Black Onyx Scratched From Kentucky Derby

Black Onyx Scratched From Kentucky Derby

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Black Onyx was scratched late Friday morning (May 3) from the May 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands at Churchill Downs.

The decision to remove Sterling Racing's entrant from the May 4 classic at 1 1/4 miles was due to a non-displaced chip in a left fetlock discovered after Black Onyx trained the morning of May 3, trainer Kelly Breen said.

"We noticed a little swelling in his ankle this morning," Breen said at a press conference at Churchill Downs. "It brought major concern right away. He did gallop this morning. He came back and on a scale of lameness on a one out of five, it was a one. It did warrant us to take an X ray where we found that he does have a chip in his left ankle."

The scratch came after the 9 o'clock scratch time.

"We started working with this horse early," Breen said of the timeline. "The time allowed to train this morning was 5:45 a.m., so I got to the barn at 5:15. Seeing what I saw, I knew we were behind the eight ball. This happens in racing often enough to say, 'this is bad timing' but he trained and actually looked pretty good training and I thought that, maybe like everyone else can do, he was having a bad day. The filling after he was done training warranted the X rays that resulted in the finding of the non-displaced chip."

According to Breen, a first set of radiographs taken on the colt around 9:30 a.m. EDT did not detect the chip, but a second set found the minor injury.

"He's an athlete. He's been a sound racehorse and the filling that was there was something. ... It was significant enough to say this is not your average ache or pain," Breen said. "That's why we went to X ray right away. This was the first time we'd taken an X ray of him.

Black Onyx was scheduled to break from the inside post in the Derby. Stewards have decided that the No. 1 slot will be left open in the Kentucky Derby starting gate and the remaining 19 horses in the Derby field will start from the post positions they drew May 1.

"There was a thought to wait until tomorrow to see how he was," Breen said. "It was up to our discretion to take the X rays. We wanted to find out what was going on. It could have been anything. If we could have helped him recuperate in a timely manner, it was up to us."

Jockey Joe Bravo, who accompanied Breen to the press conference, said, "Kelly's whole team has done so much and this shows that it's so tough just to get here. Everybody loves these horses and they do get the best care. I worked this horse the last two times. The horse has so much heart he never showed me a sign of anything being wrong."

As for Black Onyx's future, Breen and Sterling Racing's Sam Herzberg are waiting.

"I spoke to Mr. Herzberg and saw him personally at the hotel," Breen said. "It's not the easiest of conversations to have when you first know something has gone awry. He still has a real nice racehorse.

"Our regular surgeon is Dr. (Larry) Bramlage (DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS) and I believe he is still in the hospital," Breen said. "Dr. Foster Northrup (DVM) is my attending veterinarian. He's put out a couple of feelers to some other surgeons. Dr. Tom Brokken (DVM) is down in Miami and he's on the case. We should have a prognosis by the end of the day to see if it is routine surgery or time will heal the injury. We're waiting on some phone calls."

Evan Hammonds contributed to this article.

Originally published on

About the Author

Frank Angst

Frank Angst is a staff writer for The Blood-Horse magazine. An American Horse Publications three-time winner in best news story category, Angst has covered horse racing for more than a decade. Angst spent ten years at Thoroughbred Times, where he earned awards as that magazine’s senior writer and helped launch Thoroughbred Times TODAY. Besides covering horse racing, Angst enjoys handicapping. Angst has written about sports for more than 20 years, including several seasons covering a nationally ranked Marshall Thundering Herd football team.

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