Japanese stakes winner and U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) runner-up Epicharis was doing good on Friday and is still headed for the 149th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) on Saturday at Belmont Park.
The dark bay colt participation in the third jewel of the Triple Crown came in doubt after exhibiting lameness in his right front on Wednesday. He was administered two grams of phenylbutazone (Bute) by IV Wednesday evening and skipped his Thursday morning training session.
A glue-on shoe was applied to Epicharis’ right front hoof and he was examined by NYRA Chief Examining Veterinarian Dr. Anthony Verderosa at 8 a.m. (ET) Friday morning. The Gold Allure sophomore walked the shedrow with his exercise rider aboard right after.
“He appeared fine this morning,” said Martin Panza, NYRA’s Senior Vice President of Racing Operations, speaking on behalf of the connections. “He’s walked with a rider up on his back and they’re happy with the way he’s progressing.
“He’s not going to come out, they’re going to work on him this afternoon with ice. They feel confident they can make the race tomorrow, but they’re still going to monitor the horse. Obviously, the horse comes first and if there’s any problems, then they’ll reevaluate.”
Epicharis, who is the 4-1 second favorite on the Belmont morning line, was scheduled to undergo another examination around 3 or 3:30 p.m. on Friday.
“He was off just a little bit two days ago and that happens occasionally,” Panza said. “He was walking sound yesterday and he continues to walk sound today, so they’re pretty confident that he’s OK…(but) certainly, the horse comes first and there’s always going to be another race.”
Trained by Kiyoshi Hagiwara, Epicharis posted his final major move for the Belmont Stakes on Tuesday, breezing five furlongs in 1:06.06.