Nadal, one of trainer Bob Baffert’s early favorites for the rescheduled Triple Crown, injured his ankle after a workout at Santa Anita on Thursday and is out of contention for the series.
The 3-year-old colt suffered a left front condylar fracture, Baffert said in a phone interview. It was diagnosed after Nadal completed a half-mile workout in 48.80 seconds. He had surgery during which two screws were inserted in his ankle at the track’s equine hospital.
“He looked good doing it,” Baffert said of the workout. “He got back to the barn and you could tell he was a little bit off. We X-rayed his left ankle. He's got the start of a condylar fracture, a little faint line. There's no damage, it's not displaced."
Condylar fractures are a repetitive strain injury that results in a fracture to the cannon bone above the fetlock due to large loads during high-speed workouts. They were once considered career-ending injuries, though advances in technology now help with a full recovery and horses can return to competition.
Baffert said Nadal could return to racing after a 90-day recovery period. However, he would miss the Belmont Stakes on June 20, the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 and the Preakness on Oct. 3. Baffert wasn't sure if the colt's owners would retire him.
Nadal is named for Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, who has endured numerous injuries during his stellar career.
The colt is undefeated in four career starts with earnings of $1,053,000. He won a division of the Arkansas Derby on May 2 and the Rebel Stakes on March 14, both at Oaklawn. In February, he won the San Vicente after winning his racing debut in January, also at Santa Anita. He has 150 points to top the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, which determines the 20-horse field for the race.
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Nadal was purchased for $700,000 and races for a partnership led by George Bolton.
The news was another blow to Baffert in what has been a difficult week for the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer.
“I just sort of take a deep breath and go on with it,” he said. “Nobody got hurt, the horse is fine. You just think it could have been worse. I feel bad for the connections because I know the excitement. As a trainer, we know things can go south in a heartbeat. That’s why I never got too excited.”
Published reports this week said Baffert's other undefeated colt, Charlatan, tested positive for lidocaine after winning a split-division of the Arkansas Derby, as did his 3-year-old filly Gamine who won at Oaklawn on the same day. Lidocaine is a regulated anesthetic widely used in equine medicine.
However, it is considered a Class 2 drug by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and use of it carries a penalty of a 15- to 60-day suspension and a fine of $500 to $1,000 for a first offense. Without mitigating circumstances, a horse would be disqualified and forfeit its purse. Charlatan earned $300,000 for first place in the Arkansas Derby.
“I'm just waiting for the process to play out,” Baffert said. “Then you know what's going on.”
Charlatan worked out Wednesday at Santa Anita. Baffert said he could make his next start in either the Belmont Stakes or the Woody Stephens on the Belmont undercard.