In the hours after co-owner George Bolton on Thursday announced the injury and immediate retirement of Nadal, trainer Bob Baffert said he participated in a conference call with the undefeated colt’s owners regarding his future.
While at least one top breeding operation is already expressing interest in standing the recent Arkansas Derby (G1) winner at stud next year, a what if scenario appears to exist that could see the son of Blame back to the races this season.
“This is just happening so quickly that I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Baffert said. “One guy wanted to run. One guy didn’t. It’s a partnership, and they’re working things out.
“I think if he’s bought as a stallion, they wouldn’t bring him back. But he could come come back if, down the line, they decide to run him. That window is open if they want to bring him.”
Bolton campaigns Nadal with Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman and Mark Mathiesen. Since an eye-catching debut victory Jan. 19 at Santa Anita, their star horse improved to 4-for-4, also winning the San Vicente Stakes (G2) and Rebel Stakes (G2) before capturing a division of the Arkansas Derby.
Nadal suffered his injury in a work at Santa Anita toward the June 20 Belmont States, the first leg of 2020’s Triple Crown. As part of a successful surgery, two screws were inserted in his left-front leg once X-rays evidenced a “faint line,” what Baffert called the “start of a condylar” fracture.
“If they wanted to, he could come back 100 percent,” Baffert said. “I know there were some farms (interested) — Spendthrift had been working on a deal. I’m not part of that dialogue with them. They have an option if they don’t sell him, they can bring him back.”
Baffert said it’s typical that, in the coming months, one screw at a time could be removed from the affected area, keeping Nadal sidelined to where a run at the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby won’t be possible.
“But I’ve had them come back and do really well,” the trainer said.
And so there’s at least a chance Nadal is seen back on a racetrack.
The injury continued a dramatic week for the Baffert barn following reports that his other Arkansas Derby winner, Charlatan, and the talented filly Gamine had initial post-race tests from their May 2 races flagged. Split samples are due to be tested before rulings are considered.
A positive for what’s believed to be the pain reliever lidocaine — an FDA-approved substance allowed for use in horses, but not on race day — would result in disqualifications. It’s not clear why the substance was in the horses’ systems, be it from prior use on a wound, human contamination or another yet-to-be-explained reason.
If a ruling’s handed down soon, it could impact the bigger picture of the Triple Crown.
“I’m alive,” Baffert said, putting the last few days in perspective. “I’m still breathing.”
His fortunes could turn for the better pending the performance of yet another undefeated 3-year-old, multiple stakes winner Authentic, in the June 6 Santa Anita Derby (G1).
The two-time Triple Crown winner Baffert echoed the words of Bolton, a co-owner of Nadal: “Those trophies come with a lot of scars.”