ARCADIA, Calif. -- Mastery, injured when winning the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita, was scheduled for surgery Monday morning at Santa Anita, a gut-wrenching turn of events for his connections who thought they had the favorite for the Kentucky Derby when he crossed the wire, then immediately had to turn their focus to getting him through the surgery.
His trainer, Bob Baffert, said Mastery was "stabilized" in his stall Sunday. "Now we have to take good care of him, get him right," Baffert said. "I'll feel a lot better after they do the surgery."
Baffert said Mastery was scheduled to have two pins inserted into his left front ankle to address the condylar fracture that was discovered after the race. No plans have been made regarding his future. Horses can return from an injury like this, but Mastery is an unbeaten colt with a Grade 1 win on his resume, so his residual value is high.
Mastery was making his first start at age 3 after winning all three of his starts last year, including the Grade 1 Cash Call Los Alamitos Futurity. He had turned in a series of strong drills for his return, and ran to those drills, drawing off to a 6 3/4-length victory while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 105, the fastest fig earned by any 3-year-old on the Derby trail.
But only seconds after he crossed the finish, jockey Mike Smith sensed something amiss and pulled up Mastery. The colt was initially favoring his left hind leg, Smith said, but he seemed fine a few minutes later and walked onto the equine ambulance. But after returning to Baffert's barn, Mastery's left front ankle began to swell up, and radiographs showed the fracture.
Baffert on Sunday said he was still "in shock" over the developments.
"Here you do the right thing, give him time, plan on two preps," he said, before his voice trailed off.
Mastery would have been the heavy favorite for the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 8. His absence certainly bolsters the chances of Iliad and Gormley, who finished second and fourth, respectively, in the San Felipe and are intended for the Santa Anita Derby, their trainers said.
Iliad "looks great," trainer Doug O'Neill said Sunday morning. He said he'd have to speak with owner Kaleem Shah about plans for Iliad, but said the Santa Anita Derby "seems the most logical spot."
Gormley raced between Mastery and Iliad for the first six furlongs of the 1 1/16-mile race before tiring to finish fourth, beaten 9 3/4 lengths. His trainer, John Shirreffs, said Gormley never settled while racing in that spot. He said Gormley was fine Sunday morning.
"I just think he was in a bad position," Shirreffs said. "Once Iliad stuck it to him from the outside he was in a no-win situation. It's a lot easier to be on the outside in that situation. He didn't get a chance to relax."