Two days after trainer Bob Baffert told the media Kentucky Derby winner Justify was suffering from scratches, Kentucky Horse Racing commission veterinarians said the colt appeared to be sound once again.
“The horse walked, jogged, and turned in tight circles in both directions today without evidence of lameness,” said Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. “Today the horse is quite comfortable and happy.”
Video taken outside Baffert's barn at Churchill Downs Sunday morning appeared to show the colt stepping gingerly with his left hind leg on the gravel walkway outside the shed row. Baffert told the Paulick Report Sunday afternoon the colt's movement was due to “scratches,” a type of skin irritation which Baffert said was present on the skin above Justify's left hind hoof, likely stemming in part from the sloppy track conditions on Saturday.
“He does not have scratches,” said Scollay Tuesday. “I can't speak to earlier [this week] but there was no evidence of skin disease today.”
Scollay said she and Dr. Nicholas Smith consulted with Justify's attending veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Dunlavy, who told Smith and Scollay a thorough work-up had revealed a bruised heel in the left hind, which had “responded well” to treatment.
“A bruise is something you can recover from without long-term consequences,” Scollay said. “That said, I don't have a crystal ball. He bruised it once and could bruise it again – that's an unknown. But he certainly looked and felt good today and we were pleased to see that.”
“We treated it for scratches because it was irritated and it never developed,” Baffert told Ray Paulick via text message Tuesday. “We also treated him for a bruised heel later in the day. These are the kind of minor issues we deal with daily.
“I was so proud to show him off to everyone I didn't realize how sensitive his foot was until he stepped on the gravel. We jumped on it right away and now it's behind us. He goes back to track on Thursday.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) published a statement Monday demanding stewards examine the horse to determine what was ailing Justify and determine whether the horse was fit to continue training. Scollay said Tuesday the commission's evaluation of Justify was in response to PETA's request.
“We responded, as we do when we receive concerns either through our integrity hotline or any other source,” said Scollay. “They have asked questions in the past and we have responded. We have received questions from the general public and we respond to those, as well.”
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