The feel-good story of this year’s star-crossed Kentucky Derby just took another bad turn.

Finnick the Fierce has been scratched from tomorrow’s 146th Kentucky Derby “out of an abundance of caution.”

Co-owner Dr. Arnaud Monge is a field-care veterinarian at the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, KY. He said the Dialed In gelding was being carefully watched recently for what track veterinarians said was “unusual movement.” Finnick’s right eye was removed as a yearling because of a congenital cataract that left the eye virtually blind. Monge attributes the “unusual movement” to the horse’s absence of that eye.

“He carries himself a little funny because he’s blind in one eye,” Monge told reporters Friday morning. “We always knew that. But ever since he arrived, the vets have been keeping an eye on the horse. I’m telling Rey (Hernandez, trainer and co-owner), ‘Well, they’re concerned about this’ and there might be a legitimate reason, but a regular vet doesn’t seem to think so.

“So, since we’re always trying to do the best for the horse,” continued Monge, “we made the decision to scratch. We don’t want to go tomorrow and we’re all excited and then he gets scratched at the post.”

“Look, this is a horse for the long term. It was an honor to be selected for the Derby but, at the end of the day, the most important thing is the horse,” Monge concluded.

Monge indicated the current plan is to send the horse to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington for an independent evaluation to search for any underlying health issues.

Trainer Hernandez already had planned rest for the horse after the Derby. Depending on the results of the independent evaluation, Finnick the Fierce may return to run in the Preakness (G1) on Oct. 3 at Pimlico in Baltimore or the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 7 at Keeneland.

“I didn’t notice anything, but it was always the right front,” Monge said. “That’s the same side as his (missing) eye and it’s always been that way. Rey rides the horse and said, ‘This horse is fine’ and that he didn’t feel anything. I don’t know. I know horse racing is under scrutiny all the time, so I understand not trying to risk that publicity.”

In addition to the withdrawal of Finnick the Fierce, King Guillermo was scratched yesterday and Art Collector earlier. With the three scratches, 16 horses are left in the Derby field. The gate crew will leave gates 1, 18, 19 and 20 vacant for tomorrow’s Kentucky Derby.

Feature photo: Finnick the Fierce is the third Kentucky Derby scratch. CREDIT Kentucky Derby

Special thanks to the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association (NTWAB) which has assembled a group of pool reporters to provide independent reporting to NTWAB members unable to be on the Churchill Downs grounds this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.