Kentucky Derby

Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya retired

Grade I winner Eskendereya, the horse many thought would be the favorite in this year's Kentucky Derby, was retired Friday because of a soft tissue injury to his left front leg and an interest in him was sold to wine mogul Jess Jackson.

A stud deal has not yet been announced. Owner Ahmed Zayat, who campaigned the colt, retains what was termed a "significant" ownership stake in the horse.

The son of Giant's Causeway was declared out of the Derby on the morning of April 25 at Churchill Downs when trainer Todd Pletcher said he discovered fluid in the colt's left front leg.

"It is heart-wrenching that Eskendereya did not have a chance to achieve his full potential and show what he was made of at the Triple Crown," Zayat said in a statement. "He is a once-in-a-lifetime horse. Todd and I discussed every other possibility before concluding that retirement was the only option and the right decision to protect Eskendereya's health.

"This will probably take me a very long time to get over, but I am comforted by the fact that I will have the chance to see his offspring follow in his racing footsteps. We are excited about the future and are confident that he will continue to thrill the racing world by siring the best future progeny."

Zayat filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year after Fifth Third Bank filed a lawsuit claiming he had defaulted on $34 million in loans. As part of a bankruptcy reorganization plan, Zayat Stables agreed in April to sell 100 percent of Eskendereya by the end of the year.

"I am extremely pleased to partner with Zayat Stables in ownership of this magnificent Thoroughbred," said Jackson, owner of Stone-street Stables, which also owns reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. "Eskendereya is best of his class and his progeny will only add to his legacy and that of American racing."

While Pletcher saddled his first Derby winner in Super Saver, it was Eskendereya who was considered the best Derby contender the four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer had ever brought to the race.

The first flash of what Eskendereya was capable of came in his maiden win, a 71/4-length victory in the off-the-turf Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 4.

After opening his season with a solid allowance victory at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 7, Eskendereya won the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes by a smashing 81/2 lengths.

He followed that up on April 3 by winning the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct by 93/4 lengths.

"Eskendereya is as good a horse as I've ever brought to the Triple Crown races," Pletcher said. "His Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial victories were the most impressive prep races that we have ever had and we had tremendous confidence in his ability to excel at the distances of a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half."

Bred by Sanford Robertson, Eskendereya concludes his career with four wins in six starts and earnings of $725,700.