When fans are watching the Kentucky Derby, they may not notice the abnormality of the underdog horse named Patch. They won't see his missing eye until he rounds the backside turn and the crowd can see the empty cavity on the left side of his face.
Patch, who was ironically named before he had an issue with his eye, had to get his left eye removed last June. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, said he arrived at the barn one morning in June to find Patch's eye tearing heavily and almost swollen shut.
After two weeks of treatment and antibiotics were unsuccessful, the veterinarians decided Patch's eye would need to be removed. Patch was then sent to Florida for rehabilitation after the surgery.
A tissue biopsy was never taken from Patch's eye, which leaves everyone wondering the cause of his inflammation that would ultimately lead to him only having one eye.
Pletcher and Patch's owner expected Patch would be able to be able to race again, but struggled to know what realistic expectations would look like after the surgery. The Kentucky Derby was definitely not on their minds.
"It’s a credit to him and his professionalism that he was able to adapt so seamlessly to it," Pletcher said. "I was concerned that it might compromise his ability in some way or the way he carried himself. I guess you don’t know for sure but it certainly doesn’t seem like it has."
"If you watched him train and didn't know that he had one eye, there’s no indication of him doing anything peculiar in his training or in his races that would make you concerned about the one eye," Pletcher said.
Pletcher has had other one-eyed horses, usually due to blindness, race in Triple Crown races, but he said Patch is by far the most unaffected by his disability.
Pletcher is most concerned with his lack of experience due to him not racing the year of his eye-removal. Patch did finish as the runner-up in the Louisiana Derby in April, just 1 1/4 lengths behind fellow Kentucky Derby runner Girvin.
"The key is going to be the pace scenario," Pletcher said. "If it’s a little faster up front and if he settles well, and if he’s able to get a smooth trip I think it could work out for him."
Patch is currently sitting at 40-1 odds, as the underdog among Pletcher's three Kentucky Derby contestants.
"I think he’s got a little better shot than 40-1, but you know at the same time it’s a difficult assignment for him or any horse in that scenario," Pletcher said. "He's just going to have to buck some trends."
Watch Pletcher talk about Patch, along with his other contestants here:
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We are all interested to see how Patch does in the race, and will be cheering the young horse on!