Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s vaunted Big Three Kentucky Derby contenders is now down to a Big One with the news that Charlatan will miss the Kentucky Derby with an ankle injury.

Charlatan-Out of Derby
Charlatan easily captures his division of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. But it’s been an uphill climb for the Bob Baffert colt since. He’ll miss the Belmont and the Kentucky Derby with an ankle injury. (Image: AP Photo)

Baffert told Paulick Report Publisher Ray Paulick the undefeated Speighstown progeny suffered “a filling in a front ankle” that required immediate attention.

“They (veterinarians) found something there and we’ll probably have it taken out (surgically),” he told Paulick Saturday afternoon. “It’s not even a flake, but we’ve got to stop on him. He’ll be out 45 days.”

That keeps the winner of one division of the Arkansas Derby out of the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, although Baffert said the Preakness Stakes is “a possibility.”

Charlatan’s Dramatic Rise Suddenly Halted

In four months, Charlatan moved from a lightly raced promising colt to the front row of Kentucky Derby contenders. He won his first two races by a combined 16 ¼ lengths, then dismantled the first division of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby by six lengths May 2.

Along with that, however, Charlatan tested positive for a larger-than-normal amount of lidocaine and awaits the “B” sample from that Arkansas Derby sample. Should that confirm the initial positive test, Charlatan would forfeit his $300,000 winner’s share and the 100 Derby qualifying points that come along with it. Not that he’ll need the Derby points, given the latest news.

Charlatan’s last workout was a 1:00.8 breeze on June 1. Baffert zeroed him in for either the June 20 1 1/8-mile Belmont Stakes or the seven-furlong Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Timing in the Stud Game is Everything

For his owners: the consortium of SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stable, Stonestreet Stables, Fred Hertrich III, John Fielding and Golconda Stable, they’re breathing a sigh of relief. They sold Charlatan’s breeding rights in May to Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Kentucky for an undisclosed amount. While Charlatan will still command a respectable stud fee, it likely won’t be what it would have been had he captured the Derby or another Triple Crown race.

This is Baffert’s latest headache in a two-week span that has been a conga line of migraines for the Hall of Fame trainer and winner of five Kentucky Derbys. Earlier this week, Nadal – the favorite on Circa Sports’ Kentucky Derby Futures Board – suffered a condylar fracture of his left front leg and was immediately retired. A surgeon put two screws into his leg to save the horse’s life.

Three days later, Baffert’s former charge Arrogate was euthanized after a mysterious neck injury left him unable to stand up.  Arrogate had just completed his third year standing at stud.

Authentic’s Loss Made Saturday One to Forget for Baffert

Baffert got the news not long before he watched Authentic – the third of his Big Three – lose the first race of his career in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. In their rematch from the San Felipe Stakes, Honor A.P. blew past Authentic at the top of the stretch and cruised home 2 ¾ lengths ahead.

There was some good news in Baffert’s camp. Cezanne, the “mystery” Baffert 3-year-old, broke his maiden in his first try, capturing a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight race at Santa Anita Saturday afternoon. The $3.65 million son of legendary sire Curlin went off as the 2/5 favorite. He debuted at 55/1 when Circa opened its futures board, but was quickly bet down to 25/1, then 18/1.

Expect those odds to plummet further now.