Arnaud Delacour chatted with his owner on the phone Friday morning outside his barn at Keeneland Race Course and pretty much summed up the feelings of any competitor knocked out of competition due to circumstances a little beyond their control.
Delacour won't get the chance to run Ageless in next Saturday's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint as the mare continues to recover from a cut in her left hock. He made that final decision Friday morning, after consulting with his veterinarian and owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson. Delacour will still be a part of the weekend festivities, running A. P. Indian in the Lafayette Stakes on the Prelude to the Cup card Thursday at Keeneland. After that he'll head back to Fair Hill in Maryland, where he'll watch the Breeders' Cup on television.
"I'll watch it, but trying to beat the crowd and stuff like that just to be here, I'm not into that," Delacour said, no bitterness in his voice but obviously plenty of disappointment. "We'll probably have a runner that day (at another track) or the next day. And on the 30th, too. So that will be fine."
Delacour hoped to make it back to the Breeders' Cup with Ageless, who finished just three-quarters of a length behind Bobby's Kitten when fourth in last year's Grade 1 Turf Sprint at Santa Anita. She'd been lightly raced all year with the Turf Sprint in mind and looked like a legitimate contender moments after winning the Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes over the same track and trip Oct. 9.
Ageless suffered a cut below her left hock during the Franklin County, her second straight victory and third from five starts in 2015. The 6-year-old Successful Appeal mare was treated at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and spent four days at the Lexington clinic recovering from minor surgery on the injury.
Ageless returned to Keeneland earlier this week. She was pre-entered for the Turf Sprint, Delacour hoped to train the mare but didn't and eventually time wasn't on their side.
"We're just going to pass," Delacour said walking back after watching another member of his small Keeneland string train. "It's a Grade 1 and you don't go there half ready. You need to be at the top of your game and she hasn't been back in training yet. I was hoping at the beginning of the week when we brought her back that we could start doing something with her. My vet just told me not to."
"It looks very good but the stitches are not out yet and you don't want it to rupture. At this stage she's in good spirits, doing very well, as good as it gets, but we just need three more weeks. That's the bottom line."
Delacour didn't rule out retirement for Ageless, who has won 11 of her 22 career starts and racked up $713,130 in earnings for the Jacksons.
Ageless will return to Delacour's main string at Fair Hill Sunday and a decision for the mare will be made down the road, maybe even into the start of 2016.
"There's no rush. Even if she's retired we can run until March. We don't have to make that call now," Delacour said. "We just have to make sure she comes back to full capacity. I think she will. She's in good spirits and everything looks pretty good. We'll play it one race at a time once again but my guess is if everything is well she can go back to Fair Hill on Sunday and probably start working then. The stitches are going to come out Saturday morning and we'll take it from there."
The Turf Sprint was one of 10 races that oversubscribed for this year's Breeders' Cup. Ageless' defection will most likely clear the way for Canadian Grade 3 winner Stacked Deck to get into the body of the field. Stacked Deck was ranked second on the also-eligible list for the Turf Sprint but moves up a spot with Obviously most likely headed to the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Final entries for the two-day Breeders' Cup won't be determined until Monday, when post positions for the 14 races are drawn at Keeneland. Four days later Delacour knows where he'll be.
"Enjoy your Breeders' Cup, I'm sure you will be staying, unlike me," he said.