Triple Crown dreams for Steinbrenner's horse, Bellamy Road, came to an end - at least for this year - with his seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Tuesday, trainer Nick Zito revealed a new problem: Bellamy Road has a foot injury - described as minor - which may nevertheless keep him away from racing for three months.
Bellamy Road went into last weekend's Derby at Churchill Downs coming off a dazzling 17½-length victory in the Wood Memorial, and was being touted as racing's next superstar. But the strapping colt struggled as the 5-2 favorite behind long-shot winner Giacomo.
Bellamy Road was still a possibility for the Preakness on May 21 before the injury, discovered by Zito at Churchill Downs. The 3-year-old son of Concerto also will miss the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown, on June 11.
Zito said Bellamy Road could be back for the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 27.
"There's no doubt you will see the real Bellamy Road again," Zito told the Web sites of The Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse.
Zito did not immediately return telephone calls for comment. His assistant, Tim Poole, confirmed the injury.
The injury, a "popped splint" in racing parlance, is not considered career-threatening.
The injured splint, or bone, is in the area behind Bellamy Road's left front knee. It is caused by too much stress that forces the bone to pop and results in the inflammation of the tissue around the bone.
"The bad news is he popped a splint," Zito said. "The good news is the X-rays are clean otherwise, there's no fractures so he'll be back for the big races this summer."
Bellamy Road won the Wood in one of the most overpowering performances ever seen in a Derby prep, a victory so thorough that jockey Javier Castellano stood up in his saddle and waved to the crowd at Aqueduct before crossing the finish line. The winning time matched a 32-year-old track record set by Riva Ridge.
Zito theorized that the injury might have been developing before the Derby, and was aggravated during the race.
"You see this in young horses when there's a lot of stress on their bones," said Dr. Kristian Rhein, a New York-based veterinarian. "It's like a remodeling of the bones. There's a lot of force coming down, and the bone pops out quickly. It's like an overreaction, and it's painful."
Since Zito saddled a record-tying five horses in the Derby, things have not gone well for the two-time Derby winner.
Bellamy Road was his best finisher at seventh; Andromeda's Hero was eighth; High Fly was 10th; Noble Causeway was 14th; and Sun King was 15th.
High Fly, Noble Causeway and Sun King remained possibilities for the Preakness, while Andromeda's Hero likely will run in the Belmont.
There was a bit more shuffling Tuesday on the Preakness front, with fourth-place Derby finisher Don't Get Mad being ruled out of the race.
Giacomo trainer John Shirreffs is making plans to have his Derby winner vanned from Louisville, Ky., to Baltimore next week.
Third-place finisher Afleet Alex is expected to arrive at Pimlico on Wednesday after a van ride from Churchill Downs.
"Right now, he's doing great," trainer Tim Ritchey said. "Everything is going as planned."
The Preakness field has eight probables, including five Derby horses: Giacomo, runner-up Closing Argument, Afleet Alex, Wilko (sixth) and Greeley's Galaxy (11th). The likely newcomers are Scrappy T, Malibu Moonshine and Hal's Image.
Possibilities include two of Zito's horses and one from D. Wayne Lukas - either Going Wild or A.P. Arrow - while trainer Bobby Frankel could go with High Limit, who finished last in the 20-horse Derby.
Don't Get Mad could return for the Belmont, trainer Ron Ellis said.
"He just had two major efforts in two weeks," Ellis said. "We'll take him off the trail for now, but the Belmont remains a strong consideration."