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Hoppertunity, 2nd favourite in Kentucky Derby, out of race with sore front foot

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bob Baffert is down to one horse for the Kentucky Derby after early 6-1 second choice Hoppertunity was scratched Thursday because of a sore left front foot.

The colt was to have been ridden Saturday by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

"Bad news travels fast," Baffert said outside his barn, where onlookers gathered as word spread around Churchill Downs. "The horse is OK. He's just not 100 per cent and it's too close to the race, so I pulled the plug."

Baffert first noticed signs something wasn't quite right on Wednesday, when Hoppertunity took a few steps. The inside quarter of his left foot was sore, so part of his shoe was cut off. As the colt walked to warm up, he didn't appear bothered. But Baffert decided to scratch him anyway.

Hoppertunity will have a full scan Thursday to eliminate any other possible problems than a sore foot, which will be soaked.

In a bit of gallows humour, Baffert joked, "We missed a Hoppertunity."

He said the colt could return in time for the Preakness on May 17.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia revised the Derby morning line odds, although California Chrome remained the favourite at 5-2.

Wicked Strong, the colt named for the victims of last year's Boston Marathon bombings, replaced Hoppertunity as the early second choice at 6-1.

Arkansas Derby winner Danza and Intense Holiday were installed as the co-third choices at 8-1. Tapiture was made the fifth choice at 12-1.

The odds for Candy Boy were lowered to 15-1 from 20-1. Louisiana Derby winner Vicar's In Trouble, to be ridden by Rosie Napravnik, dropped to 20-1 from 30-1.

Smith will still be busy on Derby day, ridding in seven of the 13 races on the card.

"I could still have a pretty good day," he said. "I'd rather lose it this way than something happen on the track."

The scratch moved also-eligible horse Pablo Del Monte into the maximum 20-horse field. However, the 50-1 shot would have to start from the No. 20 post position. It wasn't immediately known if Pablo Del Monte's owners want to start under that condition.

"It's amazing to have the opportunity to run," said Wesley Ward, who trains and co-owns the colt. "With my 25 per cent there is nothing I'd love better, with a horse that I bred, than to run. But I have to go with what my partners want to do."

The original plan for Pablo Del Monte, who was third in the Blue Grass, was to wait for the Preakness. His other owners are in Europe, and Ward expected to learn their decision later Thursday or early Friday.

Hoppertunity had drawn the No. 11 post. With his scratch, the other horses in the outside starting gate all moved up one spot. Blue Grass winner Dance With Fate will now break from the 11th spot.

Baffert has another horse in the race, 20-1 shot Chitu. That colt also has had foot problems and recently threw one of his shoes.

"I've had a lot of luck here," said Baffert, a three-time Derby winner, "so I can't really complain."

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