The mystery surrounding the Japanese horse who is the early 4-1 second choice to win the Belmont Stakes has deepened.
Epicharis didn’t train on Thursday, hours after he was treated with an anti-inflammatory for lameness in his right front hoof, calling into question whether he will be fit to run in the final leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday (Sunday AEST).
The Belmont already lost expected favourite Classic Empire on Wednesday because of an abscess in his right front hoof.
The race is also without Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing with a field of 12 headed by War Cry set to run.
Epicharis was treated intravenously with Butazolidin, commonly known as bute, on Wednesday night, according to veterinary records from the New York State Gaming Commission. The vet treating the horse cited “possible foot” as the issue.
“He looked a little different favouring his right front yesterday afternoon, so we treated his hoof and gave him bute,” trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara said.
“It looks like it’s getting better and I think there is no problem running him in the race. We still have time, so we will give him the best care we can.”
The colt’s French jockey Christophe Lemaire believes he can win if he is fit.
“If they decided to bring the horse, it’s because they think he’s able to win,” he said.
“I think so too, especially this year with no Derby winner, no Preakness winner. I think he’s got a good chance.”
Belmont Park’s sweeping turns and deep, sandy track is similar to those in Japan. However, the 1-1/2 miles (2400m) is a question for every entrant since most horses have never run that far and will never be asked to again.
“A mile and a half is a long way to go, but in his previous races he has shown us some stamina,” Lemaire said. “He should stay the trip.”
Epicharis was undefeated as a two-year-old in his homeland and won a race in Tokyo earlier this year before being beaten for the first time when he went down by a nose in the UAE Derby won by Thunder Snow.