ARCADIA, Calif. -- The joy trainer Bob Baffert felt at watching Mastery win his first start at age 3 on Saturday in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita turned quickly to disappointment when the 3-year-old colt, one of the top prospects for the Kentucky Derby, was discovered to have a condylar fracture to his left front leg, knocking him off the Derby trail.
Surgery will be performed Monday, Baffert said. He said two screws would be inserted. He did not know if this was a career-ending injury.
Mastery was pulled up soon after the finish by jockey Mike Smith, who said he felt Mastery favoring his left hind leg, and said he wouldn't put weight on the foot. But Smith said that after another minute or so, Mastery was walking fine. Out of caution, Mastery was taken back to Baffert's barn in the horse ambulance.
Once there, though, Mastery began showing signs of discomfort in his left front leg, and X-rays revealed the injury.
"We went from the highest of highs," Baffert said at his barn. "What an amazing performance."
The post-race developments took away from a game performance by Mastery, who turned back challenges from Gormley and then Iliad to win the Grade 2, $400,690 San Felipe, the final local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 8. Mastery, unbeaten in three starts at age 2, was making his first start since winning the Grade 1 Cash Call Futurity at Los Alamitos in December. He earned 50 points toward a berth in the May 6 Kentucky Derby, but that is moot now.
"We've been so high on this horse," Baffert said. "Here you think you have the best 3-year-old in the nation and then you're walking down and you hear fans say, 'I hope you're horse is all right.'"
Smith said that Mastery "all of a sudden went off, wouldn't put weight" on his left hind.
"After a while he starting walking fine," Smith said. "He's really a talented horse, some kind of strong. He kept hitting gears. It was a pretty impressive race."
Mastery ($3.60), the favorite, went for the early lead, with Gormley just to his outside and Iliad just behind and outside Gormley as they went into the first turn. Mastery went 23.50 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, and then was forced through a middle half-mile in 46.98 to reach the six-furlong mark in 1:10.48.
As the field went around the far turn, Gormley was the first to yield from between horses. Iliad tried gallantly to reach Mastery, but Mastery turned him back and then drew clear for a 6 3/4-length victory in 1:42.28 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.
Iliad held second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Term of Art, who rallied from last in the field of seven.
Gormley faded to fourth, 9 3/4 lengths behind Mastery, then came, in order, Ann Arbor Eddie, Bluegrass Envy, and Vending Machine.
Mastery, a son of Candy Ride, earned a first prize of $240,000 and has now earned more than $500,000 for owner Everett Dobson's Cheyenne Stable LLC. But this was a hollow victory.