Top Billing knocked off Derby trail by injury

Herald-Leader Staff ReportMarch 8, 2014 

Top Billing must break from post No. 12 in the Fountain of Youth on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Top Billing, one of the top prospects on the road to the Kentucky Derby, has been declared off the Triple Crown trail after sustaining a cracked cannon bone in his right front leg during a workout at Payson Park on Saturday morning.

"We saw it after he pulled up from the breeze this morning," trainer Shug McGaughey said. "We took him back to the barn, we X-rayed it and found it."

McGaughey added that the long-term prognosis is good and that the son of Curlin is slated to have surgery.

"He's going to Kentucky today. Hopefully he'll get operated on tomorrow afternoon or first thing Monday morning," McGaughey said.

Owned by William S. Farish and E. J. Hudson Jr., Top Billing had run three times at Gulfstream Park, finishing second in an entry-level allowance on Jan. 3 before winning an optional claiming allowance race on Jan. 25 and finishing a closing third in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 22.

McGaughey still has a Triple Crown prospect in his stable in Honor Code, who is scheduled to make his 2014 debut in Wednesday's eighth race at Gulfstream. The 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy has been installed as the 3-5 favorite over four rivals in the $75,000 open allowance at 11⁄16 miles. Javier Castellano, who rode him to victory in the Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct in his 2013 finale, has the return mount.

Honor Code's training this winter was set back by bruised hind ankles, but he has a solid series of four workouts since being transferred from Payson Park in Indiantown, Fla., to Gulfstream.

"I'm just looking for him to run a decent race," McGaughey said. "I'd like him to win, but if he doesn't, we'd like to see something to push on with."

Honor Code has been expected to be pointed to the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5, but Top Billing's injury could bring the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 29 into McGaughey's plans.

"It's a good possibility," said McGaughey, who has scheduled Honor Code to breeze 3 furlongs at Gulfstream on Sunday morning.

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