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Injured pre-Derby favorite retired, sold

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Injured Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya has been retired because of a leg injury.

Owner Ahmed Zayat said Friday that tests showed the 3-year-old colt had a soft tissue injury in his left front leg. The likely Kentucky Derby favorite was pulled a week before the race with swelling in the same leg.

Zayat also announced he’s selling a share of the horse to winemaker Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables. The sale price was not disclosed.

Eskendereya stamped himself as the likely favorite in the Kentucky Derby after winning two major prep races by a combined 181/4 lengths. He was pulled from the Derby six days before the Run for the Roses because of swelling in the injured leg.

The horse underwent diagnostic testing in Lexington this week. Zayat said the injury is career-ending.

“We had numerous doctors look at him and putting all the things together, it was the right call,” he said.

Zayat agreed to sell a portion of Eskendereya as part of a reorganization plan after his racing operation declared bankruptcy. The horse’s value was based on his performance in the Wood and the Fountain of Youth, and Zayat said the horse sold for more than the valuation price.

“Eskendereya makes our (reorganization) plan much more appealing to be confirmed,” he said.

Fifth Third Bank alleged in a lawsuit filed in December in U.S. District Court in Lexington that Zayat Stables defaulted on $34 million in loans. Zayat filed for bankruptcy protection on behalf of the stable Feb. 3 and filed a reorganization plan last month.

Zayat called the sale “bittersweet” but said it was important for him to retain a share of the horse. He did not give specifics of the sale, only saying that his ownership was “significant.”

“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse,” Zayat said.

Eskendereya is the latest high-profile acquisition by Jackson. He purchased superstar filly Rachel Alexandra shortly after she won the Kentucky Oaks last spring and immediately entered her in the Preakness, where she became the first filly in 83 years to beat the boys.

Rachel Alexandra went on to become the Horse of the Year. She has struggled at age 4, finishing second in each of her two races following a long layoff.

Jackson also owns two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. Zayat said he’s not sure where Eskendereya will stand at stud.

“Eskendereya is best of class and his progeny will only add to his legacy and that of American racing,” Jackson said in a statement.