Autumn plans for The Big Steel are in grave doubt with the five-year-old suffering muscle soreness which has ruled him out of the Victoria Cup at Caulfield.
Trainer Matt Laurie was hoping to have the grey peaking for the Mornington Cup (2000m) on February 15 and the Launceston Cup two weeks later said he feared the setback would deny him his chance.
“The horse just isn’t right,” Laurie said.
“He hurt himself last run when he cut his hock quite badly and, while that is not an issue now, he may have compensated and done something else in the meantime.
“It is hard to diagnose but there appears to be muscle soreness or something else going on.
“I don’t think it is long term but time is something we don’t have a lot of at the moment.
“It is very disappointing and our plans are in doubt for sure.”
The Big Steel has had a luckless campaign with his three runs reaping two seconds and a last start fourth to Royal Mail over 2000 metres at Caulfield on January 7.
He lost his previous start on protest at Flemington to Elusive King at Flemington.
He was favourite to win with Craig Williams to ride him on Saturday and his scratching has upended the betting with TAB Sportsbet installing Bolton the new top fancy at $3.50 ahead of Royal Mail ($3.80) and Sea Galleon ($4).
Bolton is untried at 2000 metres but Darwin trainer Stephen Brown is confident he will run the distance well.
“When we bought the horse there were plenty of people around telling us he was a sprinter-miler but when we had him in Darwin I thought he would handle the 2000 metres and put him in the Darwin Cup,” Brown said.
Circumstances prevented Bolton from contesting the Cup but he was strong at this finish last start when he beat Chasse and Seguro over 1700 metres at Flemington on January 21.
Nick Hall rode Bolton on that occasion and is back on the horse on Saturday.
Brown said he expected Bolton, who is a son of Zabeel, to again be patiently ridden and finish the race off well.