Lil E. Tee's hope for a Triple Crown ended yesterday in a double disappointment: a fifth-place finish and a case of bleeding.
The episode casts doubt over the horse's ability to run in the Belmont Stakes -- where the anti-bleeding medication Lasix is not allowed -- and its shot at a $1 million bonus.
"It's too early for me to make a call for the Belmont," said trainer Lynn Whiting.
Lil E. Tee, the surprise winner of the Kentucky Derby, went off as the 4-1 second choice of betters' yesterday. He finished 8 1/2 lengths behind winner Pine Bluff.
Whiting said he thought the horse got a pretty good start, but was jostled and failed to fire.
"I thought he had a good position, but he just had no real run in him in the last quarter," Whiting said.
The horse was breathing more heavily than usual after the race and coughed a few times, Whiting said. That made him suspicious that Lil E. Tee's lungs may have bled, a common ailment among thoroughbreds.
State veterinarian Patricia Brackett inspected the horse after the race and said he bled "quite heavily."
Under Maryland rules, the horse cannot race for 10 days but may begin using Lasix, she said.
Whiting said the bleeding would not necessarily bar the horse from the Belmont on June 6. He is in the running for the $1 million bonus awarded the best performer in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The winner is selected by a point system based on a horse's finish in the races.
Lil E. Tee and Pine Bluff are tied for first at 10 points each. Casual Lies is second with eight and Dance Floor has four.
"Obviously they have bleeders in New York and they run there," Whiting said. In fact, last year's Preakness winner, Hansel, used Lasix in the Derby and Preakness and then skipped it in the Belmont and still won the third jewel of the Triple Crown.
Whiting treated Lil E. Tee with Lasix last fall when he suffered a lung infection, but was not using it yesterday, he said.
Jockey Pat Day, who won his first Derby aboard Lil E. Tee, said "I don't have an excuse. He trained so well. He came out of the Kentucky Derby better than he did the Arkansas Derby.
"Actually, the trip was pretty good after the first sixteenth of a mile. He broke well, but four or five jumps out of the gate someone hit him on the rear end," Day said.
He said Alydeed and Pine Bluff, the second- and first-place finishers, moved past him at the three-eighths pole.
"I thought I could run them down in the stretch, but he couldn't do it. He didn't have any firepower," Day said.
The horse appeared fit before the race, but a little heavier than before the Derby, said Whiting, who worked Lil E. Tee lightly before the Preakness.
"I may have not done enough with him, but I don't know if that would have made up for it," he said. "I'm just second-guessing myself."