Early Kentucky Derby favorite Forte scratched from race

The colt, whose winning odds were 3-1, was declared out of the running on Saturday, the fifth scratch this week

Early Kentucky
Kentucky Derby hopeful Forte works out at Churchill Downs Wednesday, May 3, 2023, in Louisville, Ky. The 149th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 6. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)Charlie Riedel (AP)

The early favorite for the Kentucky Derby was scratched Saturday hours before the race. Forte was declared out of the 149th Derby, according to Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers. No immediate reason was announced.

It was the fifth scratch this week from the $3 million race.

The colt stumbled on the track during a workout Thursday, although trainer Todd Pletcher had downplayed it.

Five horses have died at Churchill Downs in recent days, including two trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. He was suspended by the track and had his Derby horse, Lord Miles, scratched.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission veterinarians were at Pletcher’s barn early Saturday to observe and examine Forte, who galloped on the track and then jogged outside the barn. Co-owner Mike Repole was on hand, too.

Forte had a five-race winning streak and was the early 3-1 favorite. That leaves 18 horses to run in the 1 1/4-mile Derby.

It was another pre-Derby disappointment for Repole.

He owned Uncle Mo, the early favorite for the 2011 Derby who was scratched the day before the race. The colt had a gastrointestinal infection and was eventually diagnosed with a rare liver disease. He resumed racing before retiring in November of that year.

Other horses that were scratched this week were Practical Move and Skinner, both because of fever, and Continuar.

Pletcher, a two-time Derby winner, will still saddle Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns.

It’s not the first time the favorite has been scratched.

In 2019, Omaha Beach missed the race because of an entrapped epiglottis, which affected his breathing. He had surgery and went on to race later that year.

In 2009, I Want Revenge was scratched on Derby day after a soft tissue injury to his left front ankle was discovered that morning.

Post time for the Derby is shortly before 7 p.m. EDT.

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