Finnick The Fierce Withdrawn From Kentucky Derby, To Undergo Independent Evaluation

Finnick the Fierce, the one-eyed fan favorite in tomorrow’s Kentucky Derby, has been withdrawn from the race out of an abundance of caution. Owner Dr. Arnaldo Monge, who is a field care veterinarian at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, said the gelding was on the radar for veterinary officials because of an unusual movement, which Monge attributes to the absence of the horse’s right eye.

“Because he’s blind on the right eye, he carries himself a little funny,” Monge told reporters Friday morning. “And we always knew that. But ever since he arrived, the vets have been keeping an eye on the horse and I’m telling Rey [Hernandez, trainer and co-owner], ‘Well, they’re concerned about this’ and there might be a legitimate reason but a regular vet doesn’t seem to think so. So we’re always trying to do the best for the horse so we made the decision (to scratch) because we don’t want to go tomorrow and we’re all excited and then he gets scratched at the post.

“So we always said this is a horse for the long term. It was an honor to be selected (for the Derby) but at the end of the day the most important thing is the horse.”

Monge indicated that Finnick the Fierce would likely go to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital for a complete, independent work-up to ensure there are no underlying issues. He also said Hernandez had planned to give the horse a rest after the Derby anyway, and depending upon the results of the exam at Rood and Riddle, he may get a vacation and return for either the Grade 1 Preakness or the Breeders’ Cup.

“I didn’t notice anything but it was always the right front,” Monge said. “That’s the same side as his [missing] eye and it’s always been that way. Rey rides the horse and said, ‘This horse is fine’ and that he didn’t feel anything. I don’t know. I know horse racing is under scrutiny all the time so I understand not trying to risk that publicity.”

With the withdrawal of Finnick the Fierce Friday and King Guillermo Thursday, the starting gate crew will leave gates 1, 2, 19 and 20 empty for tomorrow’s start.

Thanks to the National Turfwriters and Broadcasters Association (NTWAB), which has assembled a group of pool reporters providing independent reporting to members unable to be on the Churchill Downs grounds this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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