ARCADIA, Calif. -- A mountain of handicapping logic couldn't stop Larry the Legend, but a little bone chip did.
The popular colt, whose upset victory in the Santa Anita Derby made him a contender for the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Triple Crown races after X-rays revealed a bone chip in his left front knee, owner-trainer Craig Lewis said yesterday.
"It's disappointing," Lewis said. "But I'd rather just pass [the races] than not have him 100 percent. We're concerned about the welfare of the horse."
Lewis said the injury, so common in racehorses that he has encountered it "zillions" of times, will keep Larry the Legend out of action for "a couple of months." The Kentucky Derby is May 6, the Preakness May 20 and the Belmont Stakes June 10.
Lewis said he ordered X-rays after Larry the Legend seemed unusually listless in the days after his determined effort in the April 8 Santa Anita Derby. Outrun into the stretch, Larry the Legend and Gary Stevens caught tiring favorite Afternoon Deelites and Kent Desormeaux in the final stride, earning the colt's fourth straight victory.
His previous victory had failed to convince most handicappers -- who believed Larry the Legend took advantage of a slow pace and a rusty Timber Country in the San Rafael Stakes -- so he went off at nearly 6-1 odds in the Santa Anita Derby.
"He ran as hard as a horse can run, gave everything he could give," Lewis said.
Lewis said he will seek more advice from veterinarians before deciding between arthroscopic surgery and letting the injury heal naturally.
At least temporarily, the injury ends a fairy-tale ride for Lewis, 47, a Long Beach, Calif., native who bought the Illinois-bred from a bankrupt client at auction for $2,500 and then named him for his brother, manager of the 1992 and 1993 world champion Long Beach Little Leaguers.
Larry the Legend earned $548,425 by winning four of five starts.
As the sport was reminded when Holy Bull broke down in February, marketability is rarely a match for thoroughbreds' inherent fragility.
Santa Anita Derby winners, in particular, have been dogged by extraordinary bad luck in the 1990s.
Brocco, who won the Santa Anita Derby last year, started poorly and finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, and raced only once more before retiring.
Like Brocco, Personal Hope never won a race after the 1993 Santa Anita Derby. Fourth in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, he retired with an ankle injury.
The two Santa Anita Derby winners before that missed the Kentucky Derby with injuries. A. P. Indy was scratched on the morning of the race in 1992 because of a foot bruise; he came back to win the Belmont and Breeders' Cup Classic and was named Horse of the Year. Dinard might have been favored at Churchill Downs in 1991 but was hurt in training; he came back but wasn't the same.
In 1990, Mister Frisky was favored in the Kentucky Derby but ran poorly. After his defeat in the Preakness, he was found to have a large growth in his throat. After surgery, Mister Frisky never won again.