In the latest illustration of the perils found along the Kentucky Derby trail, Gouverneur Morris suffered a bout of colitis that will take him out of the Sept. 5 Derby. He is expected to recover at the Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center in New Jersey, where he went Monday after suffering a leg infection.

Gouverneur Morris Colitis
After finishing second in last fall’s Breeders’ Futurity, Gouverneur Morris was a top-10 Kentucky Derby prospect. A bout of colitis made him the Derby Trail’s latest casualty. (Image: Eclipse Sportswire)

That infection sent Gouverneur Morris into a hyperbaric chamber. When he emerged, Barry Irwin, the CEO of Team Valor – Gouverneur Morris’ ownership group – said he did not look healthy.

“He had diarrhea, his color was off, and his heart rate was elevated,” Irwin told Bloodhorse. “He was diagnosed with colitis, which can be very bad, but so far, he is holding his own. Hopefully, within four-to-six days, he can leave there, but this will knock him out and he will need a couple of months off.”

The simple definition of colitis is an inflammation of the colon, which in a horse, is the segment of the large intestine after the cecum. Colitis can be the result of many things, including diet changes, stress, bacterial infections, or even an adverse reaction to antibiotics.

Diarrhea Gave Vets the Sign They Needed

Gouverneur Morris’ diarrhea provided a tip-off to veterinarians, since that is a common symptom of colitis. Dr. Douglas Thal, a horse veterinarian in Santa Fe, N.M., told that severe diarrhea is a red flag.

“Serious colitis causes severe diarrhea, which accounts for huge water loss, and can cause rapid loss of fluid from the circulatory system,” he said. “This leads to a vicious cycle of low blood pressure and reduced blood flow to vital organs and circulatory shock, which can quickly result in death if untreated.”

Gouverneur Morris takes his name from the author of the preamble to the Constitution. That couldn’t be more appropriate, considering his father is the standout sire Constitution. The equine Gouverneur Morris owns $247,500 in earnings, along with two wins, a second, and a third in six starts.

Gouverneur Morris Had a Derby Spot

In his last start, Gouverneur Morris finished third in the first division of the Arkansas Derby. Before that, the Todd Pletcher-trainee placed fourth in the Florida Derby, the only time he missed the board in his career. He broke his maiden with a nine-length romp last September at Saratoga, then finished second behind Maxfield in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland the following month.

If the Derby went off today, Gouverneur Morris and his 34 points (No. 13 on the ladder) would be in the field. Earlier this week, he was 50/1 on both Circa Sports and William Hill-Nevada Derby future boards, and 25/1 on Oddschecker. Before the health issues kicked in, Pletcher targeted the July 11 Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland as Gouverneur Morris’ next start.

That race now misses the 1-2 finishers from last year’s Breeders’ Futurity. Earlier this month, Maxfield was forced off the Derby Trail with a fractured condylar bone in his upper leg. Like Gouverneur Morris, Maxfield’s connections bypassed the Belmont Stakes for the Blue Grass.

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