Derby glory hope ends for injured Deerfield
HONGKONG Derby favourite Deerfield has been dramatically pulled out of today's $3.5-million Classic at Sha Tin.
The American-bred rising champion has a suspensory ligament problem and yesterday's withdrawal brought to an unhappy end a troubled preparation for the galloper expected to be local racing's next major star.
It was also a shattering blow for trainer Alex Wong Yu-on and internationally renowned jockey Brent Thomson who had their sights set on Derby glory since late last season.
Wong was in visible despair at Sha Tin yesterday morning after discovering the new injury when checking out his stable star in the yard of Peter Ng Bik-kuen where he has been housed for the past 10 days.
As late as Friday night Wong was certain Deerfield would start, particularly following a great gallop on the course on Friday morning.
Senior veterinary surgeon Keith Watkins confirmed yesterday that the injury to Deerfield was a fresh one - a final, devastating blow to the Wong stable.
Watkins said: ''I checked the horse after his gallop on Friday morning and he trotted up fine. It clearly developed later.
''He has a strained suspensory ligament in the right fore. It is swollen, he's sore and a bit lame.
''To the best of my knowledge this is a fresh injury and is, of course, not uncommon with gallopers. It's just one of those things that unfortunately can happen.'' Deerfield will now be out of action for the season and, as well as missing the Derby, there is now a real cloud over his future.
Watkins will take an ultrasound scan next week but added: ''He needs a good rest and he won't be racing again this season. Unfortunately, with this type of major injury, it is difficult for them to come back as good as new.'' Thomson, who has had an enormously favourable opinion of the horse right from the start, was doing his best to take the pull-out in his stride yesterday.
''There's just nothing you can do about it. It's amazing how it always seems to happen to the good horses. He has had so many problems this season it is hard to believe.
''He worked very well on Friday and I was really hopeful. I feel particularly sorry for Alex - this has been a nightmare for him. You don't get horses like Deerfield coming along too often and you only get one crack at the Derby,'' said Thomson.
Deerfield's unfortunate pull-out from the Derby field robs the race of considerable interest following closely after the withdrawal of the Patrick Biancone-trained Charming Talker.
These two horses had come out of the Classic Trial well and dominated discussions for the richest domestic race on the calendar.
As Biancone wryly said yesterday: ''Well, at least Hongkong punters are lucky there is no ante-post betting market or a lot of money would have been lost with these two coming out.'' But there is sure to be a crowd of 60,000 at Sha Tin today, drawn by the special appeal of the Derby and, of course, the chance to see brilliant champion River Verdon compete in the 1,200-metre Centenary Cup.