The Kentucky Derby is next Saturday, May 6th at Churchill Downs. This year’s field includes a unique character in many respects; 1) that he is one of only 21 horses to qualify for the prestigious race and 2) because he has only one eye.
Patch is owned by Calumet Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher. As a 2-year-old in training he developed an ulcer on his left eye. He was sent to specialists Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Saratoga but efforts to save his eye failed and it was removed. Remarkably the loss of an eye did not slow this race horse.
Sired by Belmont Stakes winner, Union Rags, Patch’s pedigree is comprised of genetic royalty: A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Bold Ruler, Nijinsky Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer. He has made an impression on his trainers with 3 starts, 1 win, 2 places and $230,000 earnings to date. He is lightly raced but has earned the 40 points necessary to qualify for the Derby.
“Patch has a nice turn of foot and a lot of talent. It’s not easy to jump up into a grade 2 out of a maiden race, but I feel like we have a sound, happy horse and that gives me confidence going into the race,” Adele Bellinger, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, told BloodHorse prior to the start of the Louisiana Derby.
Patch is getting quite a bit of news coverage but he’s not the first one-eyed horse to race in the Derby. Cassalaria was the first one-eyed horse to run in the Derby. He lost his left eye as a foal but went on to have a successful career with 28 starts, 5 wins, 6 seconds, 8 thirds and $525,662 in earnings.
Pollard’s Vision ran in 2004 and finished 17th. He was one of about 100 Kentucky foals in 2001 who lost sight in one or both eyes from a side-effect of mare reproductive loss syndrome. He raced 23 times with 6 wins, 7 seconds, 4 thirds earning $1,430,311 before retiring.
Storm in May ran in the 2007 Kentucky Derby placing 16th. Blind in the right eye as a foal he earned $511,282. After the Derby he ran a few times but performed poorly. He was retired and started a second career as a show horse.
Racing experts consider Patch a long shot to win the Derby but he has certainly won the hearts of the public who loves to cheer the underdog!
Photography Courtesy Twitter/AdolphsonRacing, Lane’s End and Adam Coglianese