Slew o' Gold, a candidate for 1984 horse of the year and a potential star attraction in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic at Hollywood Park, has another minor foot injury. A decision on whether to scratch him from the $3 million race will be made Friday, co-owner Mickey Taylor said today.
Taylor said an abcess resulting from a crack in the wall of the colt's right front hoof was discovered shortly after he arrived here from New York Wednesday afternoon. He said Slew o' Gold has an 80 percent chance of starting in the Classic.
"We'll know how well he's doing by the way he travels," Taylor said. "Essentially, he'll make the decision for us."
The loss of Slew o' Gold would be a major setback to the Breeders' Cup. Nine defections, highlighted by the withdrawal of the injured John Henry and by Seattle Song, winner of the Washington, D.C. International, have reduced the number of horses on Saturday's seven-race card to 69.
Dr. Jud Butler, a veterinarian specializing in horses' foot disorders, speculated that Slew o' Gold's infection formed a week ago. Butler applied an antiseptic patch to the foot to prevent further infection and will replace it with a fiberglass patch before the workout Friday.
The patch consists of 12 four-inch-wide layers of fiberglass cloth bound by a fiberglass adhesive and fastened by eight screws. Attaching the patch will take about 40 minutes.
"I don't believe (Slew o' Gold) is in any pain," Butler said. "He's standing comfortably. The foot is just a bit sensitive.
"A crack in the hoof wall can be caused by concussion or infection under the hoof," Butler said. "Slew o' Gold has been training on a hard surface, and that could be responsible. But in this case, it was probably caused by infection related to his other problems."
Despite continued foot problems, Slew o' Gold is undefeated in five races this year and has earned more than $1.9 million. The crack is the third discovered in his right front foot in the past month. The others were spotted Oct. 10, with the help of jockey Angel Cordero Jr., 10 days before the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
"Angel came back after working the horse one morning and told us (Slew o' Gold) didn't feel right, that he wasn't 100 percent," Butler said. "We investigated and, sure enough, there was a problem."
Butler patched the foot and Slew o' Gold won the Gold Cup by almost 10 lengths, earning a $1 million bonus for sweeping New York's three fall championship races.
Slew o' Gold previously had developed an injury to the spongy interior of the sole of his foot -- a "frog" -- that required modified bar shoes for protection.
Earlier in the week, Taylor said he would remove the shoes because the frog has healed, but changed his mind because of the horse's current problem.
If he starts Saturday, Slew o' Gold will receive the pain-killing drug Butazolidin. Because California racing laws are more liberal on the use of drugs than is the case in New York, Slew o' Gold will receive the drug closer to post time than he would if he were racing in New York.
Butler explained that hoof infections are among the most difficult to overcome.
"Because the hoof is rigid, it contains the actual infection," he said. "There is no place for the pressure to go. It's concentrated, and that can mean more pain for the animal, though I don't believe it has affected Slew o' Gold.
"He's an intelligent, muscular horse who's tough to work on. He's not mean or vicious, but when he gets sick of you fooling around with him, he starts kicking. Working on him isn't always an enjoyable task."
Trainer Mel Gross, whose colt, Canadian Factor, has lost to Slew o' Gold three times this year, said that despite Slew o' Gold's condition, he is not encouraged about his horse's chances.
"If it were any other horse, I'd feel like our chances are better," Gross said. "But nothing seems to bother Slew o' Gold. He thrives on adversity."